Perhaps the interior ministry has more pressing matters to deal with than the post-Brexit status of Britons living in Cyprus but it would be wrong to leave this to the last minute. There are tens of thousands of Britons that have made Cyprus their home and they should not be left not knowing how the Republic would treat them until a few days before the UK leaves the EU. Nobody deserves to live with this uncertainty, especially people who have been part of our society for decades.
The problem, as explained in detail in the last issue of the Sunday Mail, is that our government does not seem to have formulated a clear policy regarding the status of British nationals living here. If it has, the policy has not been communicated to the migration department, which appears to give different advice to people regarding what is required of them and what they should be doing. Even greater confusion is caused once people share the information they have been given by different branches of the migration department on internet forums.
The British High Commission, aware of this confusion from the enquiries it had been receiving, has been unable to receive the clarifications it has requested from the government with regard to the two different residence statuses (MEU1 and MEU3) being offered. “It is really a matter for the Cypriot authorities to clarify the difference in benefits offered by these two different resident statuses,” it said in statement. The Sunday Mail also contacted the migration department in the hope of receiving an explanation, but none was forthcoming.
The government does not have any excuse for the mixed message as the reciprocal protection of UK and EU citizens’ rights is one of the few things agreed in the Brexit negotiations, which is understandable because people that have made their life in a country cannot live with uncertainty over their future status. Even if the negotiations fail to reach an agreement and there is a hard Brexit, we doubt this would lead to the deportation of British nationals from EU countries and EU citizens from the UK.
This is why the Cyprus government needs to tackle the matter now, formulating a policy and communicating this to all migration offices. It could even seek the help of the UK government, which has dealt with the matter in relation to EU nationals living in the UK, through the High Commission that has offered to “work closely with the authorities” to ensure “effective and clear procedures are put in place for UK nationals.” Our government should bear in mind the majority of these UK nationals have been here for so long they are members of Cyprus society and should be treated as such.