France24 news anchor Eve Irvine interviews Elena Remigi, founder of the In Limbo Project live on Wednesday 30th January 2019.
Eve: Elema Remigi who has been living in the UK for over a decade and has put together two not-for-profit books compiling the personal accounts of EU citizens who built their lives on the right to Freedom of Movement but now question and worry for their future.
<France24 “Paris Direct / Live from Paris” clip>
Eve: Well it is time now for Perspectives and today we are going to get the view of some of the EU citizens whose lives have been left In Limbo since the UK voted to leave the European Union.
In Limbo is the name of two books that compile personal accounts of EU citizens who having built their lives on the rights of Freedom of Movement are now worried for their future.
One of the editors of the books is an Italian born interpreter who has been living in the United Kingdom for over a decade. Mrs Elena Remigi joins us now live. Mrs Remigi, thanks for your time. Can I just you what is your personal experience if being In Limbo as you put it?
Elena: It was difficult for me as well when I started applying to get my citizenship. I had to go through a true bureaucratic nightmare. It took me a year and I realized that I was not the only one in this boat. The Home Office was truly hostile to us. This led me to find out more about EU citizens rights. It was important for us that our voices could be heard. So the idea behind In Limbo is to put together voices so they can become a collective one a much stronger one. Because EU citizens have been left in this In Limbo their rights have not been guaranteed since the referendum.
Now the only solution we have is the Settled Status which does not guarantee all our present rights.
Eve: I am going to ask you more about that Settled Status in a few minutes. You say the administration was hostile to EU citizens and yet they say their default will be to accept people rather than reject them. You personally have had your case settled.
Elena: This was pre-settled status. I applied for permanent residency and then citizenship. This permanent residency, for instance, does not allow for example the French spouse of a British citizen who is a stay-at-home Mum to get permanent residency and therefore citizenship.
I remember sending 5 kilos of documents in order to prove my existence here and another 3 kilos to get citizenship. So, it was not an easy process.
Eve: Indeed, some of the testimonies you have gathered in your books In Limbo suggest that a lot of people because of the uncertainties are already acting on it. There are people you have already “upped sticks” if you like and leave as sometimes families are being split. Give us a few examples.
Elena: More people are thinking of having a plan B. Some people have already left the country and therefore split their family because of the uncertainty. Especially if you are a person with an illness. If you have certain difficulties to have to bear all this uncertainty: not knowing what your future is going to be is sometimes hard. We have seen that people are becoming more and more worried. Not only of EU citizens here it is also British citizens in the EU. It is this prolonged uncertainty, this continuous wondering what is going to happen and the prospect of a No Deal which really worries us.
Eve: At the same time, indeed we don’t have anything signed sealed or delivered on paper but overall both sides: both the UK and indeed in Brussels are saying that they want EU citizens already living in another country will be given the right to stay. So is it, in a sense, worrying for nothing? I mean all going to everybody’s plans it will work out all right?
Elena: I must say first of all that Settled Status is an application. This for EU citizens living in the UK. It is not a simple registration. Therefore an application can always be refused. It is going to be done by secondary legislation and therefore this allows for changes. Future changes without parliamentary approval. This leaves us in more uncertainty. Also we see now you have to use an app. This app does not work on iPhone. We have seen already quite a few mistakes. Of course, this phase is a trial. We have seen a lot of people being granted pre-Settled Status rather than Settled Status. Now with the new immigration bill which passed its second reading the other day. EU citizens will be left without an immigration legal status. All this is going to create two sets of citizens: those who came here like a Settled Status and the other ones coming afterwards but they will be un-distinguishable. Therefore this can lead to discrimination. For instance when you want to rent, you open a bank account. EU citizens are already struggling to do all these things because we live here with the hostile environment. We should not forget that Teresa May started the Hostile Environment in 2012. It was mainly aimed at non-EU citizens. Once we become like them it will affect us to.