A Dutch national who has lived in the UK for almost two decades has said she is “devastated” after her application to stay in the UK was refused.
Dutch-born journalist Dahaba Ali Hussen, 27, moved to the UK at the age of 10 alongside her siblings and mother, who had fled to the Netherlands in the 1990s during the Somali civil war. The family have been living in London ever since.
In December, she applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme – a requirement for all European Union citizens wishing to continue living in the UK after June 30.
To qualify for settled status, a person must show evidence that they have lived in the UK for five continuous years, which can include bank statements and letters from educational institutions.
Ali did not anticipate any issues as she completed the online application. “I received an email right after saying nothing more needed to be done, so I assumed it was all fine,” she says. “I had no reason to think it would be unsuccessful.”
Instead, the Home Office informed her by email that her application had been refused. In the letter seen by HuffPost UK, it reads: “The evidence available to us does not show that you have resided in the UK for five years. Therefore, you do not meet the requirement for settled status.”
She says she felt “devastated” and immediately “panicked” that she would be deported to the Netherlands. “My first thought was, I don’t even speak Dutch anymore. How would I go back to the Netherlands when I don’t even speak the language?”
Without a settled status, Ali will not be eligible for public services such as the NHS or public funds and pensions. She will also not be able to apply for British citizenship – which she had planned to do once her application had been approved.
On Thursday, she reached out to the3million – an organisation that campaigns for the rights of EU citizens in the UK that Ali has previously worked with.
The group put her in touch with an immigration lawyer, who said her application had been refused on the basis that the Home Office could not find any evidence of her living in the UK since December 2019. “That’s ludicrous. There’s been a pandemic and I have barely even left the end of my road in London this whole year.”
The letter from the Home Office goes on to say “numerous” attempts to ask for more evidence had been made by email, telephone and text. Ali says she made the original application on her mother’s phone and was not aware of any phone calls or messages.
“I don’t know if it’s because they tried to call or text my mother. She’s illiterate and I don’t go through her phone.” She added that she only saw the previous emails after checking her spam email folder on Thursday.
Ali is currently working with her lawyer to decide how to proceed with her application, but she worries that there could be many other people in a similar situation who are at risk of being deported – and not even aware of it.
“I immediately knew it was a mistake and I got help and took to Twitter. But if the process went wrong for me, then what about the people who are so vulnerable they don’t even know their own rights?”
“An obvious example is my own mother who can’t read or write. If her application had been denied, how would she have known? What would have happened to her? I just can’t help but think that if the Home Office had wanted to get hold of me, they would have sent a letter and tried a lot harder than they did with me.
“I think it’s going to be a huge issue after June when employers and landlords start demanding proof of your status. I just didn’t think it would be my case that would highlight it.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Home Office said her “application to the EU Settlement Scheme was refused because she failed to provide evidence of her residence in the UK.
They said Ms Ali is “able to reapply to the scheme by June 30 2021 and we encourage her to get in touch with the helpline where our dedicated staff can support her to provide the requested evidence.
“We made several repeated attempts to contact her over a number of weeks – by email, phone and text – but the evidence requested was not provided. We accept a range of evidence and will work with people on a case-by-case basis to consider other evidence if necessary.”
Ali says she feels like she was being “punished for being Dutch”. “I didn’t choose to be born in the Netherlands and I didn’t choose to move to the UK – those are decisions that were made for me.
“But I have chosen to remain in the UK. My friends and my loved ones are here, my job is here, I feel British and identify most strongly with the UK. It’s offensive that I need to make this application in the first place.”