Sweden has expelled 1,100 British nationals since Brexit, more than any other country in the EU, according to official statistics released by the European Commission.
The figures come as controversy builds over the “deeply shocking” decision by the country’s immigration authorities to order a 74-year-old British woman with Alzheimer’s to leave the country because she did not have post-Brexit residency papers.
Full-year figures released on 31 March by Eurostat puts the Scandinavian country top of the post-Brexit removal charts with disproportionately high expulsions compared with more populous countries such as France and Germany, which had issued removal orders for 115 and 40 British citizens respectively since Brexit came into force.
Spain, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Luxembourg did not expel any British nationals in 2021 or 2022. After Sweden, the Netherlands was responsible for the second-highest number of removals, at 720, followed by Malta (135) and France (115).
In total, the EU removed 2,610 British nationals in 2021 and 2022, which with the number of children involved suggested many families were asked to leave. All other EU member states removed fewer than 100 British nationals in the same period.
Eurostat data shows that 1,350 were aged over 35, 1,025 were between 18 and 34 years old, 35 were teenagers between 14 and 17, and 170 were under 14 years old.
David Milstead, a British professor of physics living in Sweden who is part of the British in Sweden campaign group, said the figures were alarming.
He has called on the immigration authorities to “immediately stop the deportation” of Kathleen Poole, whose family are fighting against her removal.
“They also need to provide an explanation for why Sweden has issued around 50% of all deportation notices in the Schengen zone to Brits during 2021-22 and, likely related to this, why Sweden has rejected more residence applications than other EU countries for withdrawal agreement protections.
“This has been a growing and obvious problem – no more looking the other way. The case of Mrs Poole is not unique – a number of longstanding residents have been forced to leave,” he said.
He also called on Sweden to review how it was treating late applications for post Brexit residency by British citizens.
“Sweden’s outreach programme for UK nationals was extremely weak and around 900 late applications have so far been received. It’s not too late to help those whose applications are undecided or who are appealing to keep their residence,” he said.
Under the withdrawal agreement signed by the UK and the EU, all EU nationals living lawfully in the UK and British citizens living in an EU or European Economic Area country before Brexit were entitled to stay in those countries for the remainder of their lives.
Sign up to This is Europe
The most pivotal stories and debates for Europeans – from identity to economics to the environment
The Labour MP Hilary Benn this week described the plan to remove Kathleen Poole as “deeply shocking”, while Jane Golding, the co-chair of British in Europe, said vulnerable people like her were precisely the people the agreement was supposed to protect.
Before Brexit it was extremely difficult to remove a citizen of another EU member state, with exceptions made for those who “present a genuine present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society”.
The application of the withdrawal agreement by immigration by Denmark has also been criticised after a number of British nationals received removal orders even though they were only days late for the deadline for the application for post-Brexit residency status.
Last week, the Danish government lifted that deportation threat with new domestic legislation to give “an extra chance to those who did not realise they had to apply for new documents”.
A spokesperson for the Dutch immigration authority said it could not comment on the final-quarter figures for 2022 but noted return decisions “means that a residence application has been rejected or that a previously granted residence permit has been withdrawn”.
It said that for the previous quarter 48% of the return decisions “were imposed upon the rejection of an application for a residence permit based on the Brexit withdrawal agreement”, either because “the Briton did not reside in the Netherlands before 1 January 2021 and therefore did not fall within the scope of the protection of the withdrawal agreement”, or the Briton had been absent from the Netherlands longer than permitted for residency rights.
Sweden’s migration agency did not comment on the Eurostat data but said in relation to the withdrawal agreement the “most common” reasons for rejecting applications from Britons were “uncompleted applications, late applications without reasonable grounds and applicants not fulfilling the requirements for residence status”.