Brexit fears lead to spike in casework at legal advice centre

Long-term residents - including large French community - seek advice on long-term status

Wednesday, 20th June 2018 — By Dan Carrier

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A LEGAL advice service based in Kentish Town has seen a huge rise in worried residents seeking help over whether they will be allowed to continue to live in the UK, the New Journal has learned.

The Camden Law Centre, based in Prince of Wales Road, has offered help with issues such as housing, benefits and family law for 45 years. But centre director Sean Canning says in recent months there has been a spike in people arriving with questions about their immigration status.

He said many EU nationals are facing confusion over whether they have the right to remain in the borough, even though many have been living in Camden for decades and have raised families here.

“Not only have we seen a huge rise in people coming in to ask our advice, the profile of people seeking help over immigration issues has changed,” he said. “There are 17,000 European Union nationals living in Camden and, for a lot of people, Brexit has created real uncertainty.”

One recent case saw a couple who have been living together in Kentish Town for more than a decade seek help. Mr Canning said: “They are both professionals. One has lived here all their life and is a British national. They are married to a Dutch national and, suddenly, they need to make sure they can travel abroad for conferences and work and have the right to return to what is their home. This is one of the impacts of Brexit, and is in no way an isolated case.”

He added: “There is a large demographic of people who have been a little bit under the radar and whose legal position is uncertain as a consequence of Brexit. It has been a massively disruptive influence on their lives.”

Sean Canning from Camden Law Centre

Camden has a large population of French nationals who have settled in Kentish Town, where the French school Collège Français Bilingue de Londres is based.

Mr Canning said: “In the borough there are a lot of EU nationals who are comfortably off but have never had to deal with these issues. Many have lived in Camden for a long time and brought their children up here but now are looking at whether they should move back to Europe. They are facing uncertainty because the rules of what will happen have yet to be decided. And, whatever the final decision is, there is a perceived hostile environment that has been created by the Brexit narrative.”

Other issues the team look at each week focus on housing, often in the private rented sector.

Mr Canning said: “Advice services such as ours are going to face an unquantifiable demand going forward because of the Brexit process. The principle is, if you have been here for five years, you should have the right to remain, but there are still many questions left unanswered.”

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