Britain's Home Office, an equivalent in some of its functions to the Department of Homeland Security in the United States, has warned citizens of European Union member states living in Britain that they should leave the country to “avoid becoming destitute.” Written on behalf of Home Secretary Amber Rudd, a letter from the British government advises EU nationals to leave the United Kingdom because they have the “right to travel freely across the EU and can visit, live, study and in most cases work in any other EU member state.” Some observers see the missive as a foreshadowing of Britain's definite departure from the EU.

Obtained by Britain's Observer newspaper, the October 18 letter was written by British immigration officials to tell a Romanian now living in an immigraiton detention center that his request for emergency accommodations had been refused. Telling him that he should go to another country, the letter told the recipient: “You could avoid becoming destitute by returning to Romania or another EU member state where you could enjoy access to all your ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights] without interference.” Citizens of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe are protected by the ECHR, which guarantees human rights. 

Since the Brexit referendum this year in the UK to separate, arrests and deportations of Europeans have risen dramatically. Some critics contend that the government actions against EU nations has contributed to a “hostile environment.” Government data shows that there were 5,301 deportations this year as of June. This came while the government worked to deport homeless Europeans who were sleeping rough. Human rights advocates assert that the deportations may harm Britain's relations with other European countries. However, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Polish officials last week that their compatriots' rights in Britain would be protected would be “protected whatever happens” after Brexit.

An October 20 letter from the European commission’s directorate-general for justice said it is looking into changes in British law and the rising detention of EU nations. The letter expressed concern that Britain has restricted “their right to move and reside freely” in the country. The letter noted that Britain has amended UK law so as to "subject to administrative removal” those EU nationals found to be homeless and living on the streets in the UK.

The Home Office declined to comment, claiming that the “description of the letter provided is not one we recognise as a Home Office document.”



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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