EU free movement law discriminates non EU citizens

EU Law discriminates against individuals and families who aren’t EU citizens. Here’s a list of how EU citizens and their families are given preferential treatment over non-EU nationals (all references are to Directive 2004/38/EC):

EU citizens can enter the UK (and all other EU Member States). The only requirement is that they have enough resources to last them three months. After three months they can claim benefits. Non-EU nationals have to apply for emigration and those holding tourist visas can’t claim benefits. (Arts 5 and 6)

EU citizens can bring children and non-EU partners with whom they have a durable relationship into another member state. Non-EU nationals have to apply to do this and be earning £18,600 per year. They can’t bring partners unless they have a marriage certificate. An ex co-worker worked 6 years for an unbearable boss so he can bring his children here, not knowing that the laws would change and require that he earn £18,600. He’s a chef and is never going to earn that much. He also can’t get fired because if he doesn’t find another job within 6 months he’ll have to go back. (Art 3)

EU citizens don’t need to apply for work permits but non-EU nationals do and some have to pay thousands for work permits. Employers aren’t allowed to hire them unless the employer can prove to the Home Office that no other applicant was qualified enough to be hired, which makes it very difficult for them to be hired and forces employers to choose less qualified and less experienced candidates.

EU citizens can’t be charged £9,000 for tuition fees because by EU Law discrimination on the grounds of nationality is prohibited. However non-EU nationals can be charged far more because they aren’t protected by EU Law. EU Law also doesn’t protect EU citizens from being discriminated against by their own Member State. That’s why English and Welsh students have to pay £9,000 a year at top Scottish universities but EU students pay nothing, same as the Scottish students (the New Deal means that Scottish students don’t have to pay tuition fees). This isn’t in the Directive but was decided by the case law of the European Court of Justice.

EU citizens can enter the UK even if they have criminal records (Arts 27, 28 and 29). They have to be a threat to public health or national security to be denied entry. But non-EU nationals are likely to have their applications denied if they have criminal records.

EU citizens achieve unconditional permanent residency status after living in the host Member State for five years (Preamble, (9)). Non-EU nationals (even those born here) have to apply for permanent residency and it can take up to 15 years for the Home Office to reach decisions. During that time they can’t go on holidays abroad or their application will be nulled, which splits families apart. Many children born in the UK have to leave even though in other countries (like America) they would be granted citizenship by virtue of being born in the country. It seems very tragic and nonsensical that the UK literally expels thousands of its young citizens every year – many of whom consider themselves British- while being forced to grant permanent residency to people who came here only recently as adults. A family I know were asked to leave even though their four year old daughter who was born here could only speak five words of her native language. The parents had lived in Britain for eight years, had degrees and one was working while the other was looking for work. The family appealed the decision and were told that if they didn’t arrive at the immigration tribunal on time the appeal would not go ahead. After the appeal the Home Office took 13 years to reach a decision, finally granting conditional permanent residency when the girl was 16 or 17. She’s now 25 and still can’t leave the UK for more than 2 years without having her residency revoked and having to go and live in a country whose language she can’t speak. It is also illogical that EU nationals who are uneducated can live here while PhDs who could benefit the UK are denied residency just because the country on their passport happens not to have joined the EU.

EU citizens still retain their right of residency after divotce as long as they’ve been married for three years and married for one year in the host country (Art 13). However non-EU nationals will lose their right of residency unless they’ve been married for five years while in the UK.

This kind of discrimination clearly violates human rights but the European Court of Human Rights has made an exception for EU Law. This is very unfair to individuals because they might be separated from their parents or forced to leave a country they were born in just because their country hasn’t yet acceded to the EU. It’s a lottery that individuals have no control over (except through electing politicians who are pro-EU). This discrimination has the (unintended) consequence of being de facto racial discrimination. Though France, Germany and the UK have a diverse population, Eastern and Southern Europe are much less diverse, meaning that most EU citizens are white.

From a UK perspective the discrimination is illogical as it would make more sense for the UK to give preferential treatment to citizens of former colonies such as the USA, Australia, Hong Kong and India. As it is, the current discrimination confers benefits on people who are not connected to Europe. I know a Brazilian who enjoys EU citizenship because one of his grandparents was Italian and he has an Italian passport. A former colleague came to the UK a couple of years ago from Macau because everyone in Macau has a Portuguese passport, which makes them EU citizens. But those who left Macau for neighbouring Hong Kong a generation ago aren’t EU citizens because they have Hong Kong passports (and although before 1997 they had British passports they still weren’t EU citizens and couldn’t enter Britain, despite EU citizenship being established with the Maastricht Treaty in 1992).

Brits don’t benefit from EU citizenship as much as other Member States do. The first reason is due to our own isolation and Euroscepticism: we don’t teach pupils about the EU and their rights so they don’t take advantage of their free movement rights (or know those rights exist). So while Europeans come here we don’t go there. The second reason is that English is the international language and while we can;t speak French or German well enough to easily find jobs there, they learn English from a younger age and can speak it well enough to find jobs here. Thirdly, compared to many other European countries (especially Eastern Europe) the UK has a better economy and is seen as a more desirable place to live.

In the interests of balanced reporting I’d like to point out that though EU citizens receive preferential treatment this only benefits the more privileged EU citizens. The three-month requirement means that individual citizens must have around £2,000 to enter the UK (I’m basing this on the £57-£71 a week Jobseekers’ Allowance plus rent). A family of four might need around £8,000. This might be a lot of money in their own country. I have no idea how immigration officials define “enough money for three months”; do they calculate rent based on council houses, private lets or hotel rooms, for instance?

The EU has its good points and its European Court of Justice is often better at safeguarding our human rights than the European Court of Human Rights. The EU has given non-military aid to the Arab Spring, worked with non-European countries such as Egypt on cultural issues and given us an EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Recently non-EU citizens who have resided in an EU member state for “many years” were granted the same free movement rights as EU citizens, which goes a little way towards redressing the imbalance. Each Member State will define “many years” for itself. I’m not a Eurosceptic and neither am I pro-EU. I wrote this because I thought it would be informative in the current debate about whether we should remain in the EU.




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One thought on “EU free movement law discriminates non EU citizens

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