Mayor Opens Doors To Show London Europeans 'full Support' Over Brexit

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Mayor opens doors to show London Europeans 'full support' over Brexit

London, Sept 21 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 22nd Sep, 2019 ) :In a crowded room in London's City Hall, a dozen lawyers dish out advice to Europeans worried by Brexit in a mayoral initiative aimed at sending a message to Boris Johnson's government.

Kirsty Buxbom, a 65-year-old Danish woman, was one of those seeking help from immigration specialist Emily Heinrich, who was invited to the event by mayor Sadiq Khan, a staunch critic of Brexit.

Buxbom arrived in Britain 28 years ago, has family in the country and wants to stay.

"We just love London, the art, the community, the mixed cultural diversity," she explained to AFP.

She complained about the lack of clarity in the applications process for residency.

"My husband and I got a permanent right-to-live in this country in 1988... yet when I read through all the information in terms of applying for EU citizen status, it said that anybody who received promises (...) still had to apply." The Conservative government created a mobile phone app through which the 3.3 million Europeans residing in the United Kingdom could apply for the right to stay after Brexit.

But there are "people who are overwhelmed by bureaucracy", said Khan.

"There are many older EU citizens who... don't know how to use the technology," he told AFP.

For most applicants the procedure should be easy, but awareness-raising information is in short supply, said Heinrich.

"People who can show they've lived here, especially through national insurance numbers, have had no problems," the lawyer told AFP.

"The complicated cases that we are seeing are people who haven't been paying national insurance and have to rely on other documents, or people who have criminal convictions," she added.

- 'Loud, clear' message - Britons voted by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, but parliament's repeated rejection of the divorce deal negotiated with Brussels has led to the departure date being postponed twice, until October 31.

New prime minister Boris Johnson says he will not ask for another extension, vowing to take the country out of the EU without a deal if one cannot be agreed.

"I worry because of the way the government has handled this whole Brexit situation," said Khan.

"I want a message to be sent out loud and clear: London is open, whatever happens." More than 1.5 million Europeans have already made their applications, but many claim to have encountered difficulties.

"The application does not work with every mobile phone," complained Javier Sevilla, a Spaniard in his thirties who works in London's powerful financial sector.

He is less concerned by his legal situation, and more about the attitudes promoted by Brexit.

"For example, the fact that we are called immigrants," he said.

"Yes, we are, but it is symbolic that the many English living in Spain are called expatriates, not immigrants." The mood has led some Europeans to return home.

"I ask them to... just consider to return to Poland, I think it's a very good opportunity to come back," Arkady Rzegocki, Poland's ambassador in London, recently urged in a letter to compatriots.

- 'Feelings of isolation' - In City Hall's modern auditorium, with glass walls overlooking the Thames, Khan hosted a ceremony similar to those performed when granting British nationality to mark "settlement status" being bestowed on 40 European citizens.

The mayor then pledged the "full support" of City Hall for "European Londoners".

"I'm proud to call myself a Londoner," said Spanish dancer Tamara Rojo, 45, on a stage with 28 EU flags.

"I'm a European citizen and a citizen of the world."Previously a principal dancer with the world-renowned Royal Ballet, she has served as the artistic director of the English National Ballet for the last seven years.

"We are nervous about Brexit, there is fear, fear that it can translate into policies and feelings of isolation," she said, before the 40 honorees were called, one by one, to the stage to be thanked for their contributions to the city.

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