11th December 2017

Disabled people and Brexit

In light of Brexit, many EEA citizens are attempting to obtain a permanent residence card to secure their status. Disabled EEA citizens who have never worked or have worked less than 2 years due to their impairment are often unable to apply for permanent residence card. Many of them came to the UK as disabled children with their parents or became disabled later in life but before they reached working age. Not only are they refused a permanent residence status, it also means they can’t apply for British citizenship because EEA citizens need the card to be eligible to apply for citizenship. In some cases disabled people have been refused access to benefits in the UK even after decades of receiving them. A permanent residence card would help them prove eligibility easily. Additionally, they are often unable to move back to their country of birth because they have no access to their benefits and health system or face other major challenges, often disability related.

EEA nationals who provide care for their disabled family members – many are disabled British people – are often unable to assert the right to reside because the UK Home Office does not consider them as working persons exercising treaty rights. They can’t apply for a permanent residence card which means that they can’t apply for British citizenship. The AIRE centre has published a detailed statement on the situation of EU carers in the UK.

Since the referendum, many EEA citizens are considering moving back to the country they were born. Of course they don’t want to move alone when they are married and have family. If one of their relatives is disabled, they face many barriers to moving back. Additionally, many countries block access to benefits for disabled people in the first few years. These circumstances make it impossible for some EEA families to move back to their country of birth or to any other EU country.

Facebook group UKCEN

UKCEN is a Facebook group which helps EEA citizens and their families to apply for permanent residence and British citizenship. There are several lawyers in the group who give advice for free and answer general questions. The group has an extensive FAQ and several topic-related documents in the group files, which you should read first before posting.

AIRE Centre

The AIRE Centre is a specialist charity whose mission is to promote awareness of European law rights and assist marginalised individuals and those in vulnerable circumstances to assert those rights.

The Law Centre Network

Law Centres work within their communities to defend the legal rights of local people. Specialising in social welfare law, they have an in-depth knowledge of the issues communities face.
Law Centres offer legal advice, casework and representation to individuals and groups. All Law Centres are independent and operate on a not-for-profit basis.

The East European Resource Centre

The East European Resource Centre offers information, advice and help with forms regarding residence, citizenship, applying for British passports for naturalised Eastern Europeans and registration of Eastern European children as British citizens.

Your Europe Advice

Your Europe Advice is an EU advice service provided by legal experts operating under contract with the European Commission. It consists of a team of about 60 lawyers who cover all 24 official EU languages and are familiar both with EU law and national laws in all EU countries. Your Europe Advice replies to questions from citizens or businesses on their personal EU rights. The experts respond to the questions within one week, free of charge and in the language chosen by the user.

Immigration advisors and solicitors

Immigration advisers can help you to fill in the right forms and representing you at a tribunal. The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) regulates immigration advisers and makes sure they meet certain standards.

You can also find immigration advisers through:

The Law Society if you live in England or Wales
The Law Society of Scotland
The Law Society of Northern Ireland

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Disabled Europeans, their families and carers in Britain are facing a hostile environment at the moment. They are considered as unwanted by parts of the society. They are labeled not only as immigrants but often also as a “burden”, because they receive disability related benefits.

Guarantees are needed

Disire hoped that the start of the Brexit negotiations would calm down and clear up the situation for disabled EEA citizens and their families. Unfortunately, the proposal recently presented by the UK government and the UK-EU deal concerning the right to stay for EEA citizens does not make any mention of disabled people and carers. Instead, even the proposed status mentions exercising EU Treaty rights (working, being self-employed, studying, being self-sufficient) as a requirement for the new status. This would make it impossible for many disabled people and carers to obtain the new proposed status.

We welcome the intention to scrap the CSI requirement. Even so, this move would not help most disabled people and carers who receive a carer’s allowance or disability and other benefits, as they are not considered “self-sufficient”.

The “transition period” would not help them either, as their impairments are permanent and they cannot change the fact that they are disabled.

Call for provisions

In general, any new arrangements regarding the right to stay in the UK for EEA citizens and for British citizens in the EU must not discriminate against disabled people, their families and their carers.
Both the UK and the European Union have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Any new arrangements and rights must have disabled people and their families in mind. Any new status, rights or arrangements need to have provisions for disabled people who can’t fulfil the requirements due to their impairment. If necessary, also people with responsibilities for caring for someone must get provisions if these responsibilities prevent them from meeting the requirements. These provisions are important to meet legal requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UK Equality Act 2010 (reasonable adjustments and anti-discrimination) and other laws.