Story by Bethany Morris, content writer for the Immigration Advice Service
Photos by Christina Tegola and Deborah Blencowe
For generations, the Roma community has faced an intense stream of adversity and persecution from all over the world. Now, with the looming uncertainty of Brexit still hanging in the air, they come under threat from not only an increase in marginalisation, but also prospects such as homelessness, deportation, unequal employment opportunities and restricted access to public service entitlements. The community could potentially experience a Windrush-like fiasco, with thousands holding the right to remain in the UK but struggling to prove so.
Fortunately, they don’t need to apply for British Citizenship, but they will need to satisfy the criteria of the EU Settlement Scheme. (see https://iasservices.org.uk/british-citizenship/)
EU Citizens need to apply for Settled Status in the UK in order to retain their residency rights before 2021. The problem with this for the Roma community is that high rates of technological and linguistic illiteracy exist in the UK’s Roma population and there simply is not enough support in local communities to assist them. Exacerbating matters, the application consists of an online form in which applicants must submit their proof of identification, their address and evidence of their continuous residency in the UK – items which, despite their importance, many of the UK’s Roma community don’t have. The Migration Observatory discovered that only 3% of the UK’s Roma population possessed the correct documents and could successfully complete the required paperwork.
Discrimination against the community still exists today, particularly in eastern Europe where the segregation of schools and inadequate employment opportunities are common issues. However, their marginalisation is still rife in the UK too. According to Rebecca Hilsenrath, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, surveys found 50% of people living in Britain will express unfavourable views towards the Roma community. One Tory MP referred to the movement of Roma people throughout his constituency as a ‘disease’.
Unsurprisingly, the growing consensus and support for such inflammatory rhetoric has left members of the community increasingly isolated; with little support from their local areas and widespread distrust in the authorities and the Home Office, many may find themselves unsupported and uninformed about potentially critical information regarding their residency rights. Many of the answers to such questions lie in the Immigration Bill and the Withdrawal Agreement that are both still yet to be passed. The Roma community amongst other EU citizens are continuing to live in a state of heightened uncertainty.
A report by the JCHR (Joint Committee of Human Rights) claims that once Britain leaves the EU, rights to employment, social security, housing, and study will all change for EU citizens. And, since the EU has rejected a plan to secure the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, many EU nationals including those belonging to the Roma community are left feeling disconcerted and concerned about what their future in the UK may look like post-Brexit, leaving them in what has been described as a state of ‘legal-limbo’.
With Brexit fast approaching, there are widespread concerns that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU could potentially diminish anti-discrimination legislation in the UK, as well as creating a new UK Bill of Rights, which would mean withdrawing from the European Convention of Human Rights. As the Brexit referendum was held in an environment of heightened tensions, many fear that this may influence the potential creation of a UK Bill of Rights, risking an increase in the marginalisation of ethnic minorities such as Roma people.
Immigration Advice Service on Twitter: @IASimmigration