In Limbo – a seemingly endless tale of perfidious Albion

In Limbo Cover– Source: Spokesman Books

An updated and expanded version of In Limbo has recently been published by Spokesman Books. The first edition covered the fears, anxieties and feelings of betrayal – by the UK, by friends and, in some cases, by families – of EU citizens living in the UK. Does the updated version tell us of a happy ending? No such luck. The new material covers the problems faced by our fellow citizens in struggling to obtain Settled Status against the backdrop of Priti Patel’s smiling face of compassionless cruelty.

Ed: In Limbo is a set of testimonies from EU citizens living in UK. It arose from an original idea by Elena Remigi and was collected by Elena Remigi, Véronique Martin and Tim Sykes. This new edition has forewords by George Szirtes and Ian Dunt.

There is still the fear, anxiety and straightforward bewilderment….

  • I no longer feel secure in the UK. I am unsettled despite having acquired Settled Status. I’m in an Un-Settled Status.
  • Fifteen years of domestic violence have left me destroyed from the inside out…. I think the worst thing Brexit did for me was to reinforce that yet again someone else was in charge of my life. My ex used to threaten to have me deported and that I’d never see the kids again…
  • I have been struggling to get Settled Status or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for my father. He is in a care home now-… I know it sounds silly but I have been having nightmares of my Dad being carried out of the care home as he doesn’t walk and being forced on to a plane.
  • It’s all gone very, very quiet here in Norfolk. Most friends do not understand the “problem”… I have never felt so isolated in my life.
  • I am Bulgarian. I’ve been living in UK for over 13 years and have always worked. I never claimed a penny of benefits and paid high taxes. Yet after all I’ve done, I now get asked to apply for Settled Status like I came here yesterday, even though I was issued a Residence Card by the Home Office back in 2007 to work and live in UK for unlimited time.
  • I am a Polish national, but have lived in the U.K. continuously since 2003. I got married here, had children, went to university and worked. However, according to the Settled Status application I have lived here for less than five years, so I need to find the evidence to support my application. I don’t remember being invisible to the tax man… why have I become invisible now?
  • I don’t even know where to start. Under some pressure, I attempted EUSS application. I’ve lived in this country for almost a decade and not only does [the app] claim I’ve lived here less than five years but it also tells me to provide evidence for the years I’ve worked. I worked in dementia and mental health care for my first four years here in the shittiest conditions and that’s how this country thanks me.

… and the feeling of betrayal:

  • I’m in the process of applying for my Grandmother’s Settled Status. She is 84, from Belgium but has lived in Scotland since the 1950s. Her two children voted to leave (the EU). It’s so hard not to scream at family members who voted for this. But that’s pointless now.
  • I am Bulgarian. Our 12 year old son was born in UK and has dual nationality…I’ve been living in UK for over 13 years and have always worked. I’ve studied for five years to get a few diplomas whilst working full-time and being a full-time mum. It was exhausting but I’ve done it and now have a great job. I never claimed a penny of benefits and payed high taxes. Yet after all I’ve done, I now get asked to apply for Settled Status… On top of that, a few months ago I found out that all of my husband’s family voted Leave in the 2016 referendum and for Mr Johnson in the latest GE…  My mum and I have experienced a lot of xenophobic and racist abuse, and been regularly asked when we are going back to our country. Even in the supermarket we got told by a female customer that it is absolutely forbidden to speak in any other language than English.

One practical concern is the mind-numbing process of applying for Settled Status and the feeling of wading through glue.

  • I met my British husband while he was serving in Germany as a member of the British Army. I gave up my career, left my family, friends and my old life behind and moved with him to the UK. Amber Rudd had publicly declared that getting Settled Status is as easy as getting an LK Bennet card… so what could possibly go wrong? Well, the problem is that this is not a “one size fits all” system, and that EU spouses of forces and ex-forces members might simply fall through the cracks….Applying for Settled Status was by far one of the most stressful things I have ever done.
  • I’ve contributed to and loved this country from day one when I arrived in 1988. Applying for “Settled Status” should have been straightforward and simple, so imagine how I felt when I was only granted pre-Settled Status! I was enraged when the letter came through, “Congratulations, your pre-Settled Status has been granted. You can stay in UK till 24 August 2025!” Five years? So I decided to post my letter online and within an hour it went viral and radio and TV were calling for an interview. My MP took my case to parliament, and most broadsheets published the story. I’m lucky that with a bit of a high profile on social media I could really kick some ass and make some sense out of it all, but how many people aren’t as lucky as me or don’t have the knowledge, capacity, back-up or language to navigate through the system?

How do the elderly and disabled cope? Badly, it seems.

  • My mother, Rosa, is 82 years old. She came here from Italy in 1956. She was recruited by the UK textile industry armed with a contract and a permit. She fully complied with stringent UK immigration…With tears of frustration, anger, fear and despair, she was forced to sift through papers spanning six decades to prove her ILR acquired many moons ago.
  • Today I met an elderly lady, 82, who had no idea about Settled Status. I am very worried about the lack of information elderly people are receiving about Settled Status.
  • I have applied for Settled Status for my mother, who is 71 and visually impaired. When it comes to a situation when she needs to prove her status to anyone how will she do it?  There is no hard document, only an online option. I think it is a nonsense situation for many disabled people.

This is an important practical concern raised by others:

  • Why oh why aren’t we given a physical document, not some stupid reference number for landlords and prospective employers to use to verify us on some website?

Another area of concern is the fact that by no means all EU citizens are aware of the requirement to obtain settled status (not just for themselves, but for family members, too): 

  • The other day I was doing the nails of an EU client and she asked me how things were going. I told her I got my Settled Status. When I mentioned my daughter, she asked, “Did you apply for her too?” I didn’t know that children had to do Settled Status! Imagine she hadn’t told me. What would have happened to my daughter?
  • In Bradford, giving advice to EU citizens on Settled Status, I’ve spoken to 248 people overall and 209 had never heard of Settlement Status. I started carrying out a survey about this for our Polish Community in Bradford and in April 2020 only 5,360 Poles out of over 14,000 had applied and received Settled Status. We need to figure out how to reach the most vulnerable.
  • In my taxi to Heathrow I realised the driver was Romanian. I immediately asked him if he had applied for Settled Status. He seemed confused. He knew people were asked to do something, but thought his tax record and NI number would be sufficient to prove he had lived here for 12 years. Needless to say his wife and daughter hadn’t applied either.
  • I realised again last night at a pub in Bristol how important it is for us to constantly talk to other EU citizens about settled status. The Latvian barman was absolutely convinced that he did not need it as he has been here longer than five years and considered himself a resident. Eventually my Slovak partner convinced him to look into it. So many are going to be left behind with this. It’s frightening.

Let’s try to be cheerful: once you have acquired Settled Status your future is assured, isn’t it? Apparently not…

  • Our jobs may require us to work outside the UK for a few years and then I would lose my Settled Status again.
  • Today I received an email confirming that I have been granted Settled Status. However, the email says, “this letter is not proof of your status in the U.K. Your status is linked to the passport or identity card that was used to apply for the scheme”. My current passport expires next year… Please don’t tell me that I will have to go through this stupid process again.

Ian Dunt (author of How to be a liberal) has written a new introduction in which he raises the spectre of Windrush:

‘This is a potentially dangerous situation, because pre-settled status does not automatically transfer to settled status. It is up to the applicant to notice that the period of their [pre-]settled status is ending – potentially years from now – and then apply for settled status. If they do not, they become undocumented migrants. For whoever does become undocumented, the full grim weight of the British immigration system beckons. Under a programme the government called the Hostile Environment, a wide net is thrown over society to find, isolate and undermine anyone who might be suspected of undocumented status.’

Rating: five stars.
Yet again, a harrowing but absolutely essential read. Give it to any of your friends who still naively cling to a belief in “the British sense of fair play”. If you want to view the book launch click here.