Lisa O’Carroll Brexit correspondent
Sun, 13 November 2022 at 12:00 pm
A British man living in Denmark is being deported from the country because he was four days late with an application to stay there post-Brexit.
Danish MP Mads Fuglede is fighting to stop the deportation which he says is a breach of the spirit of the withdrawal agreement to protect EU citizens’ rights. However, following elections last week and with no new government in sight in Copenhagen, he is worried help may not come in time for Philip Russell.
The 47-year-old financial services administrator received his first removal order in May and was devastated to learn it was because he was four days late with new residency documentation he did not realise he needed post-Brexit.
He was confident someone would see this was a minor error, but on Monday he received the bombshell news that his deportation appeal had failed and he must leave the country, his job and his fiancee.
“You must leave Denmark no later than one month from today’s date, which means no later than 6 December 2022. As a consequence of our decision, you also no longer have the right to work in Denmark without a work permit. Therefore we will inform your employer about our decision,” they said.
“I feel completely devastated. I’ve been through 11 months of hell already, with no end in sight apart from being deported, so that means I’m going to lose my job, my home, my fiancee, being dumped back into London,” Russell said.
He feels such punishment for being late with an application is completely disproportionate to the alleged offence but is now fighting against time to overturn the deportation order.
Fuglede, who has taken up his case, said he had written to the former interior minister to urge a change in the law to allow late applications to be considered, as they are in the UK.
“I know he missed the deadline, but we need to look at this politically and make sure that there is leeway for Philip and others like him. This was not the understanding when we passed the law. The spirit of the withdrawal agreement was to ensure that every UK citizen in Denmark had an easy pathway to stay.
“There are probably others who are going through similar agony which is not what we intended,” he said.
He wrote to Kaare Dybvad, the former immigration minister, about Russell’s case but had not received an answer by last week’s elections and says it could be weeks or months before a new government is formed.
“Philip will need the help of a lawyer which is a lot of money. In a perfect world there should be a delay for decisions on late applicants,” Fuglede added.
Russell’s fiance, Frederikke, said she is ashamed that her country has behaved like this. “I am in a bit of shock, it is my worst nightmare come true. I am still devastated.
“I feel hopeless and helpless. I feel we are fighting against a system that just does not want to help. They set the rules so hard. I mean, to deport someone for being four days late with an application that they never told us we had to make? I must admit I am very ashamed of my country, of all the EU member states, to be treating citizens like this,” she said.
Frederikke, who suffers from clinical depression and anxiety, said the last year has been so stressful that she has been forced to quit her job to cope with the turmoil.
Russell said he not only needs to be with her because they love each other and have planned a future together but that he is her primary support for her illnesses.
“I am very much in shock because we made sure we did all the things that were required of us to make sure that Philip can live and work here,” she said.
“We even went to their offices to have a meeting, to ask them ‘is everything in order, do we need to do anything more?’ and we were told ‘no, everything was OK’ and we trusted the authority,” she said.
Russell moved to Denmark to be with his fiancee in October 2020, three months before the Brexit transition period ended in December 2020.
Denmark was among several countries that extended the deadline for EU citizens to apply for post-Brexit residency for a year, but Russell says he received no notification that he was required to do anything despite several communiques with him since 2020.
The first Philip and Frederikke knew of the Danish post-Brexit residency scheme was when he applied for a job on 4 January 2022 and his potential employer asked to see his national residency card.
“I said ‘what the hell are you talking about?’ and they said, ‘oh, you should have applied for it four days ago.’
“I then started frantically searching various online forums and websites and learned the Danish authorities should have written to me at least two times, maybe three, last year requesting me to apply for a residence permit,” he said.
Siri, the Danish immigration authority, said it could not comment on a specific case.
But Siri said it and other government agencies and private organisations had launched information campaigns with “extensive information on the consequences of Brexit and guidance on how to apply”.
Siri said it had sent three information letters to about 19,000 resident British citizens and their families, and had created a Brexit hotline for questions and had records of 290 late applications.
It added that it would “assess all the circumstances and reasons” someone had applied late and would process the application if there were “reasonable grounds” for the failure to meet the 31 December deadline.
In the assessment of a late application, “SIRI will also consider the applicant’s personal circumstances and ties with Denmark, eg length of stay, ties with the labour market and the impact on the applicant’s closest relatives,” it said.
It added that its decisions are subject to review by an independent appeals board and advice was available to unsuccessful applications on how to lodge a complaint.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office spokesperson said it was in contact with a UK national in Denmark about his residency status but offered little more comment beyond the rules as stated in Siri’s statement.