Marlies Haselton has called Britain home for more than 30 years. The Dutch national married a Briton, had her children there, and considers herself "part and parcel" of the UK. Until Britain's divorce from the European Union, she had never given a thought to her immigration status in the UK.
Haselton, 55, is among the millions of Europeans who have freely lived, worked and studied in the UK for decades, but whose rights are no longer automatically granted due to Brexit. Britain's government introduced a "settlement" plan for the country's large European migrant community in 2019, and the deadline for applications is Wednesday.
From Thursday, any European migrant who hasn't applied will lose their legal right to work, rent housing and access some hospital treatments or welfare benefits in the UK. They may even be subject to deportation.
Meanwhile, the freedom of movement that over 1 million Britons have long enjoyed in EU countries is also ending. Those applying for post-Brexit residency permits in France also face a deadline on Wednesday. Campaigners in the UK are worried that tens or even hundreds of thousands of Europeans may not have applied by the deadline.
Many older people who have lived in the UK for decades are not aware they have to apply, and official figures show that only 2 percent of applicants were 65 years old or older. Many parents also don't realize they have to apply for their children, migrants rights' groups say. Other vulnerable people, such as an estimated 2,000 children in social care, also risk falling through the cracks and ending up with no legal status.
For Haselton and many others, it’s a moment that drives home the impact of Britain’s referendum to leave the EU five years ago. Although Haselton successfully received her ''settled'' status. meaning she can reside permanently in the UK, she said the whole process has made her feel insecure about the life she built in Britain.“I don’t feel settled,” she said. “I’m concerned about the future. I just don’t have a safe feeling about growing old here as a foreigner. The sense of home I used to have is gone.”