Monique Hawkins decided to apply for citizenship fearing her rights would be diminished after Britain leaves the EU
A Dutch woman who has lived in the UK for 24 years, and has two children with her British husband, has been told by the Home Office that she should make arrangements to leave the country after she applied for citizenship after the EU referendum.
The story of Monique Hawkins highlights the practical difficulties faced by millions of EU citizens concerned that they will not have the right to stay in Britain post-Brexit.
Hawkins had considered applying for citizenship before but decided not to as it did not confer any rights beyond her current EU rights. However, after the referendum she changed her mind, fearful that those rights would be diminished after Britain leaves the EU.
European citizens marrying Britons do not automatically qualify for UK citizenship under current rules and Hawkins was concerned that if she did not apply she would be forced to join a US-style two-hour immigration queue while the rest of her family sail through the UK passport lane.
In order to get citizenship, she first had to get a permanent residency document, which involves an 85-page application form.
Hawkins said the Home Office had overlooked vital information in her submission she was unable to supply an original of her Dutch passport because her father had recently died and she needed her passport to continue to travel to the Netherlands to support her mother.
However, the department not only rejected her application but sent her a letter which took no account of her right to be in the country irrespective of their decision. As you appear to have no alternative basis of stay in the United Kingdom you should now make arrangements to leave, the letter said.
When she phoned the Home Office to discuss the decision communicated to her in October, four months after her application, she was told her case could not be discussed on the phone or by email. Hawkins said her treatment by the Home Office was as absurd as a Monty Python sketch.
In a written complaint, Hawkins said the worst aspect about the process was the inability to contact anyone. She wrote: I do not believe there is any other business, organisation or even legal process in the world that would treat its customers/clients/applicants in this manner.
The software engineer, from Surrey, said she never once thought she would be deported but said her experience highlights the absurdity of the Home Office permanent residency process.
She was told that under the rules she could not talk to anyone about her case and after making her written complaint she received a letter saying her complaint did not qualify as a complaint under Home Office guidelines.