EU Rights Clinic helps respected university professor to continue teaching in UK after being told to leave by Home Office

The EU Rights Clinic has successfully helped an award-winning senior associate professor in psychology to obtain a residence card despite the Home Office rejecting his first application and telling him he should make arrangements to leave the UK or face deportation.

The Home Office had refused our client Michael J Proulx’s first application for permanent residence on the basis that he had not proved that his EU wife was exercising free movement rights in the UK, despite having lived in the UK since 2008, during which time he conducted ground-breaking research at the University of Bath into sensory substitution that benefits the blind.

The Home Office did not accept that Michael’s wife was a worker even though she lectures part-time at the University of Bristol. One of the reasons cited for the refusal by the Home Office was that Michael and his wife did not have private healthcare insurance in place and were therefore considered “a burden on the UK’s social assistance system”.  This requirement was imposed despite the fact that our client and his wife have jointly contributed several tens of thousands of pounds in income tax and national insurance contributions during their working lives in the UK and have never claimed benefits. Michael had believed that, as a UK tax-payer, his family should be free to rely on the National Health Service (NHS) for their healthcare needs.

However, the Home Office’s current policy means that it does not accept reliance on the NHS as evidence of having comprehensive sickness insurance, which is a requirement that must be met by EU citizens who live but do not work in the UK. The UK authorities currently require EU citizens who do not work to have private healthcare insurance, even though they are entitled to free treatment on the NHS as a matter of UK law. Nor have the UK authorities put in place any process that would enable EU citizens to make voluntary healthcare surcharge contributions if they wanted to.

The UK is currently the subject of an investigation by the European Commission for breaching the EU rules on the free movement of persons as regards its restrictive policy on healthcare entitlements. Regrettably, the UK courts have so far sided with the Home Office on this issue and ruled the policy is justified.

Michael, who was a torchbearer at the 2012 London Paralympics, says:  “I still cannot quite believe what happened to us. The Home Office appear to have their priorities all mixed up. We are very grateful that the EU Rights Clinic was able to intervene on our behalf.”

Michael was assisted in this case by caseworkers Amelia Stoenescu and Ben Slaugh, students at the University of Kent, under the supervision of qualified lawyers. Anthony Valcke, solicitor for the EU Rights Clinic commented: “This case is a perfect example of the lunacy of the Home Office’s policy that requires non-working EU citizens to have private healthcare in place even if their working spouse contributes to the UK’s public finances. The policy is designed to prevent EU citizens from becoming an unreasonable burden on the UK’s finances. Yet when an EU citizen is supported by a working spouse who is not from the EU, the working spouse’s contributions to the Treasury are completely ignored.”

Unfortunately, despite having received a 5-year residence card for the UK, Michael is still facing problems whenever he returns from business trips abroad. He has been detained on three separate occasions at the UK border. It appears that the UK Border Force’s computers only flag up his first refusal without showing that his right to reside has now been recognised. The EU Rights Clinic will be writing to the Home Secretary to raise the matter.

EU Rights Clinic Helps EU Citizens to Appeal Belgian Expulsion Orders

The EU Rights Clinic has assisted a Greek citizen to appeal successfully against a decision to expel him from Belgium. In a judgment delivered on 13 March 2015, the Belgian Immigration Appeals Council annulled an expulsion order that had been served on our client Aristidis, even though he was a worker at the time and therefore could only be expelled under EU law if he represented a threat to public order or public security.

In March 2014, the Belgian Immigration Office had issued an expulsion order against Aristidis on the basis that he no longer had the right to reside in Belgium, because they considered that he did not have any chance of finding work. However, the Immigration Office sat on the decision for seven months before notifying Aristidis of the expulsion order. By the time the expulsion order was notified to Aristidis in October, he had already found full-time work. This meant he should not be expelled from Belgium under the terms of Article 14(4) of the EU’s Free Movement Directive.

The Immigration Appeals Council considered that the Immigration Office had failed to provide any reasons that justified the expulsion order against Aristidis. However, the Council did not go as far as to annul the decision to terminate Aristidis’s right of residence in Belgium. The Council did not consider that the seven-month delay in notifying the decision to Aristidis had affected the legality of the decision to terminate his right of residence. As a result, Aristidis had lodged a further appeal on this point before the Belgian Council of State.

In 2013, Belgium served expulsion orders on no less than 2,712 EU citizens who were considered as no longer having the right to reside in Belgium. A similar number of EU citizens is expected to have been ordered to leave in 2014. The European Commission has launched an investigation into the actions of the Belgian authorities in this regards following a joint complaint submitted by the EU Rights Clinic with INCA CGILFGTB/ABVV and Bruxelles Laïque.

Legal assistance in the case was provided by the Clinic’s Legal Supervisor Anthony Valcke, legal volunteer Giulia Donadi and volunteer advocate Benoit Dhondt of the University of Ghent’s law clinic.

Anyone who has received an expulsion order in Belgium can get free face-to-face advice on their rights by contacting the Europe 4 People Helpdesk.

The views expressed on the blog are personal to the authors and should not be seen as constituting legal advice. It should not be relied upon instead of consulting a lawyer.

Web Counter
Web Counter

The EU Rights Clinic: One Year On

The UK is at the forefront of countries where EU citizens experience problems when exercising their right of free movement.

In the twelve months since its establishment, the EU Rights Clinic has received over 60 requests for assistance. 44% of the Clinic’s cases related to problems encountered by EU citizens in the UK. Several problems were also reported in Belgium (12% of cases), Spain (11% of cases) and France (8% of cases).

The Clinic assisted over 160 individuals throughout the EU – of which over half comprised British citizens – and helped them to resolve problems in 14 different European countries.

The problems encountered by the Clinic’s clients span a wide range of issues, but the vast majority of problems related to residence formalities (46%) and visa problems faced by non-EU family members (21%).

During the course of the year, the Clinic provided its assistance in a number of notable cases. The nature of the assistance ranged from assisting EU citizens in completing forms and signposting to EU information services, to providing advice and helping them to appeal before the national courts.

One of the first cases registered concerned a British citizen whose disability benefits were suspended by the UK authorities when he moved to Norway. The Clinic considered this breached the EU Regulation on the coordination of social security on the basis of a judgment handed down by the EU Court of Justice in 2007. The client assisted the client in lodging an appeal before the UK’s First Tier Tribunal and arranged for the client’s free representation at the appeal hearing. In December 2013, the UK Tribunal ruled in favour of our client and ordered the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions to pay back the benefits that had been withheld from the client since 2007. The DWP has sought to appeal the case and we are presently assisting our client in resisting the appeal.

In March, the Clinic assisted ECAS in securing the release of internal documents of the European Commission relating to negotiations over the UK’s so-called “Opt out” from the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights.  ECAS made the initial request for these documents in October 2007, prior to the signing of the Lisbon Treaty. The request was made under EU Regulation 1049/2001 which allows the public to request the release of documents from the EU institutions. After an initial refusal from the European Commission, ECAS took the matter before the European Ombudsman.  The Ombudsman issued a final decision in December 2012 ruling that the Commission was guilty of “a serious instance of maladministration” and that “the Commission’s position constitutes a substantive violation of the fundamental right of access to documents foreseen in Article 42 of the Charter”. Following a new request by ECAS, the Commission released the contested documents on 31 January 2013. The EU Rights Clinic examined the released documents and issued a detailed briefing on their contents.  The released documents indicate that the Council Presidency initially proposed the removal of any reference from the Charter to its binding effects on the Member States as a way to address UK concerns.  The Commission disagreed with this interpretation and considered that an opt-out was preferable to amending the Charter. The case was reported in the European press.

Another notable case involved making an official complaint to the European Commission against the delays faced by EU citizens when crossing the border between Spain and Gibraltar. The Clinic received over 100 complaints from residents of Gibraltar, frontier workers and tourists affected by delays of almost eight hours resulting from border control formalities imposed by the Spanish authorities during the summer of 2013. The Clinic lodged an official complaint arguing how the delays breached the EU rules on free movement, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Schengen Border Code. Despite the overwhelming evidence provided that the Spanish authorities had imposed excessive and arbitrary border control measures that breached EU law, the European Commission issued a statement in November in which it found that EU law had not been infringed. The EU Rights Clinic has since made an official request for the Commission’s internal documents to determine the precise reasons for its finding of no infringement. Once these internal documents are released, the Clinic will proceed to examine the documents and issue a report.  The Clinic’s involvement has been reported in the Spanish and British press among others.

Our annual report for 2013 will be available in due course.

The views expressed on the blog are personal to the authors and should not be seen as constituting legal advice. It should not be relied upon instead of consulting a lawyer or immigration adviser.

Web Counter
Web Counter