A Romanian MEP has called on the European Commission to intervene following the release of data suggesting that UK border officials could be conducting racial profiling against Romanian and other east Europeans states.
Last week, UK government data revealed that more than 7,000 EU citizens were stopped and questioned at ports by British border officials since freedom of movement ended in January, of which 60% were from Romania.
“We cannot accept any discrimination against Romanians,” tweeted Victor Negrescu, a Socialist and Democrat MEP, adding that he had asked the European Commission to intervene in the matter.
“We are the political family that fights for equal rights & a fair partnership with the UK,” he said.
The UK Home Office has denied that it is practising any bias by nationality.
According to the UK government data, 7,249 people were stopped either at airports, ferry ports or on Eurotunnel and Eurostar vehicle and train services during the first six months of this year. 4,482 were from Romania, while the majority of other citizens who were stopped and questioned by border officials were from eastern and central Europe, including over 600 Bulgarian nationals and over 400 from Poland.
The figures represent a fivefold increase on the same period in 2020 when the post Brexit transition phase was in force and free movement between EU member states and the UK was still allowed.
Following the release of the data, the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland called on the UK Government to offer EU citizens physical proof of their settled or pre-settled status. Civil society groups have argued that a physical document would provide re-assurance and help prevent discrimination.
Currently, the UK only offers digital proof of status.
“All other groups of people who choose to make the UK their home and to contribute to our communities and economy are given physical proof. It cannot be right to deny EU citizens the reassurance that is offered to other migrant groups,” contends the letter.
“Having two types of proof for two groups will lead at best to confusion and at worst to discrimination,” adds the letter, which was signed by Jenny Gilruth (Scottish Minister for Europe), Jane Hutt (Wales’ Minister for Social Justice), Paul Givan (Northern Ireland First Minister) and Michelle O’Neill (Northern Ireland deputy First Minister).
The row is the latest case which suggests that EU nationals are, in some cases, being denied their rights.
While the Home Office has granted over 95% of applicants by EU nationals settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, which gives them the same rights to welfare and other benefits as UK citizens, there have been a number of cases where EU nationals have been denied housing and other rights.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]