Girl, 10, refused EU settled status in UK despite all family members being accepted

Girl, 10, refused EU settled status in UK despite all family members being accepted
Exclusive: Home Office rejects Italian girl’s EU settlement application after granting status to parents and brother

A 10-year-old girl has been refused EU settled status despite the fact that all of her immediate family members have been granted it.

Sara Bajaraktari, an Italian national who turns 11 next month, has been told by the Home Office that she is not eligible for post-Brexit immigration status under the EU settlement scheme, despite the fact that her parents have been living in the UK since last year and have status.

She and her brother, Erik, 16, moved to the UK to join their parents earlier this month after staying with relatives in Italy to finish their school year – but while he was granted settlement, Sara was refused.

Following Brexit, EU citizens who wish to stay in Britain must apply for the new form of status through the scheme by 30 June. Those who do not risk becoming undocumented – leaving them unable to access state support and liable for deportation.

EU nationals who can prove they have been in the UK for five years are eligible for settled status, while those who have not received pre-settled status, for which they only need to prove that they were in the UK prior to 31 December 2020.

Sara’s father, Mark Bajaraktari, told The Independent he was left “speechless” after discovering that his daughter had been refused and expressed concern about his family’s future in the UK.

He and his wife, Leonora, moved to Britain in December – a move that had been postponed due to the pandemic. They both applied under the settlement scheme and were granted pre-settled status.

In order to meet the threshold for pre-settled status, the two children had visited the UK for five days in December. They both applied under the scheme in March 2021.

However, while Erik has a bank card and was able to present a bank statement showing that he had bought items in Britain, Sara had only a flight boarding pass as evidence – which the Home Office did not accept as evidence that she was in the country.

“What you have provided is not sufficient because online boarding passes provide no evidence of residency […] Therefore, your application has been refused,” the refusal letter states.

Mr Bajaraktari, 42, who decided to move to Britain to be closer to relatives who live in the country, said of the moment they received the letter: “My wife and I were speechless. Sara is a child and we all have pre-settled status.

“I was more worried for my wife and I because we didn’t have a long residency in the UK. I never thought our child would get refused. It’s been a real shock.

“Sara got really worried when she found out. She was worried she would be left in Italy without us.”

Christopher Desira, director of law firm Sepharus, is assisting the family and said the Home Office was informally reviewing the decision.

He said the case indicated “either poor decision-making or a poorly understood application”, adding: “The child should have been granted pre-settled status based on the evidence submitted (airline ticket) to demonstrate the child was resident in the UK before 31 December 2020.

“I suspect it will get overturned by the Home Office EU settlement team […] They tend to be pretty helpful when reviewing decisions which appear on the face of it to be wrong.

“But in the interim it’s very stressful for the family, and there may be others out there facing this problem who aren’t in touch with the organisations that can help them raise these issues.”

Cristina Tegolo, service coordinator at charity Settled, said the organisation was receiving many enquiries from “worried” parents whose children had been refused EU settlement or who were struggling to make an application for their child due to a lack of evidence.

“We hope that such cases can be resolved quickly and that families who call the UK home are not at risk of falling foul of this scheme,” she added.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.