Tens of thousands of British people in Europe could soon become 'undocumented migrants' thanks to Brexit

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Tens of thousands of British people in Europe could soon become 'undocumented migrants' thanks to Brexit
People look at property advertisements in an estate agency dedicated to British buyers, on June 16, 2016, in Eymet, southwestern France, in the Dordogne region where a large population of British expatriates live.MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP via Getty Images
  • Thousands of Brits in Europe have less than a month to avoid becoming unauthorized immigrants.
  • UK citizens in France, Luxembourg, and elsewhere are required to apply for residency by June 30.
  • Citizens-rights groups said people who failed to apply risked losing access to healthcare.

Up to 100,000 British citizens living in mainland Europe have less than a month to apply for permanent residency on the continent or risk becoming unauthorized immigrants with the threat of lost rights or deportation.

Under post-Brexit rules, UK citizens who live in countries including France, Malta, and Luxembourg are required to apply for residency by June 30 or risk losing basic rights.

But tens of thousands living abroad have still not applied, leading to concerns that those affected could lose access to services such as healthcare as a result of their new status.

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"We are now less than a month before our deadline, and people just do not know what the consequences will be - they don't know exactly how their lives will be impacted," Kalba Meadows, a resident in France who cofounded the citizens-rights group France Rights, told Insider.

"If they haven't applied before the deadline and they aren't due to have reasonable grounds for a late application, they're going to become undocumented migrants.

"What the actual consequences of that will be we don't know, but it is highly likely that they will lose access to healthcare. That has serious consequences, especially for the elderly and vulnerable."

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Fourteen of the European Union's 27 member states granted automatic residency to British citizens who were already living there when the UK left the bloc, but the remaining 13 require UK citizens to apply.

Those countries include Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, which has extended the deadline to November 30.

According to the EU-UK joint committee on citizens' rights, 298,000 British citizens need to apply for residency but only 190,100 had done so by April 28.

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That figure included 25,500 people in France from a total of 148,300 who had not applied by the end of April.

Many Brits living abroad aren't aware of their rights

Tens of thousands of British people in Europe could soon become 'undocumented migrants' thanks to Brexit
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The UK-EU joint committee's report said French authorities were carrying out "awareness-raising campaigns" online and through printed media, but Meadows said she had not seen any.

British in Europe, a citizens-rights group, has called for other member states to extend the deadline, a spokesperson, Fiona Godfrey, told Insider.

The UK several months ago issued guidelines on how it would treat late applications from people affected by COVID-19.

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Godfrey said that British in Europe had asked the European Commission for similar guidelines in member EU states and that no guidelines had been published so far. The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request from Insider for comment.

"The thing we don't know is if the deadlines are not extended - if people do wake up undocumented on July 1 - what that will actually mean for them," Godfrey said. "I've asked in meetings: What concretely will that mean for them? We haven't been told that."

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