More than half of the EU nationals refused entry by UK border officials post-Brexit are from Romania, it has emerged.
As immigration checks continue to tighten, the number of EU citizens stopped at the British border has risen by a third. In the third quarter of 2021, 5,266 European nationals have been stopped at the border, compared to 3,955 the previous quarter, according to law firm Bates Wells.
Out of these, 56 per cent were Romanian, followed by Bulgarians (10 per cent) and Polish nationals (seven per cent).
Bates Wells partner Chetal Patel said the numbers suggest Eastern Europeans may be subject to nationality profiling by UK border officials.
“In the eyes of the law, all EU nationals should be treated equally. The fact that Romanians and other Eastern European nationalities continue to be disproportionately impacted, does indicate that some profiling may be taking place,” she told City A.M.
She added: “Being subjected to intense questioning can be a distressing experience. Many of the people who have been stopped are likely to have been trying to visit the UK for legitimate reasons, such as visiting friends or family. These latest figures don’t help the UK’s international reputation.”
Since 1 January last year, the Home Office has been gradually tightening border checks. After Brexit came into force, a total of 12,515 EU citizens have been stopped at the UK border, compared to 1,150 the previous year.
Border officials can stop an EU citizen if they believe the European national is attempting to enter the UK to work, but does not have a post-Brexit immigration status which is ‘accepted’ by the Home Office.
Last year’s data: Romanians versus Northern/Western Europeans
In September last year, it emerged that of the 7,249 people stopped at ferry ports or on Eurotunnel and Eurostar services, 4,482 were from Romania, accounting for 60 per cent of all EU nationals topped and questioned by UK officials.
By comparison, only five people have been stopped from Denmark, 59 from Belgium and 144 from France.
The government data prompted questions from lawyers about potential discrimination, as a fivefold increase was registered for the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
But a Home Office spokesperson told The Guardian at the time that the racial profiling claim was “false and unwarranted” and that rules were applied “fairly”, based on whether an individual has the right to work in the UK.
The spokesperson also highlighted the fact that data related to a period of time of tight Covid restrictions, when non-residents arriving in Britain “faced greater scrutiny to protect against imported coronavirus cases”.