Europeans with job interviews tell of detentions and expulsions despite rules allowing non-visa holders to attend interviews

EU citizens are being sent to immigration removal centres and held in airport detention rooms as the UK government’s “hostile environment” policy falls on them after Brexit, according to campaigners and travellers interviewed by the Guardian. Europeans with job interviews are among those being denied entry and locked up. They have spoken of being subjected to the traumatic and humiliating experience of expulsion, despite Home Office rules that explicitly allow non-visa holders to attend interviews. Confusion about whether EU citizens can explore the UK job market and then go home with an offer in order to apply for a work visa has added to the growing number of detentions. In other cases, visitors are clearly breaking rules, such as those now barring EU citizens from taking up unpaid internships.

At least a dozen European citizens – mostly young women – were detained and expelled at Gatwick airport alone over 48 hours last week, two female Spanish detainees told the Guardian. Some were sent two hours’ drive away to Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire, where a Covid scare meant they were confined to their rooms. Other countries whose citizens have been held at a UK airport or detention centre include Italy, France, Bulgaria and Greece. It is understood one French man was held at Edinburgh airport for 48 hours recently, while the Bulgarian ambassador to the UK confirmed a number of his nationals had been held at immigration removal centres. The two Spanish women were detained at Gatwick on 2 and 3 May after arriving on separate flights from Valencia and Bilbao.

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