Tens of thousands British citizens are reportedly stuck living in Portugal without healthcare access, unable to change jobs or travel to and from the country over failures to issue post-Brexit ID cards.
UK ministers are urging Portugal to implement the withdrawal agreement in full to protect the livelihoods of the 34,500 Britons who settled in the country before the UK left the EU.
Under the UK-EU agreed deal, it was guaranteed that Britons living in the country would have their employment and social rights protected.
In so doing, the Portuguese government was required to issue biometric residency cards, but Britons living in the country say they are still relying on temporary documentation and a QR code – which they claim is not recognised locally or at international borders.
The delays in issuing the vital ID cards meant one British citizen living in Portugal was forced to pay a £4,000 hospital bill for a broken limb because he was unable to access public healthcare.
James Campbell, a computer programmer, also told The Guardian he felt more like an “illegal immigrant at the moment”.
Another couple told the newspaper they had been detained in Frankfurt airport for carrying incorrect residency documentation. The pair have since been accused of breaching immigration laws.
A UK government spokesperson said in a statement: “We continue to urge the Portuguese government to complete the process of issuing biometric residency cards to UK nationals living legally in Portugal without further delay.
“Portugal must immediately and fully implement the withdrawal agreement commitments it signed up to in 2018 so UK nationals have the security they need.”
The Portuguese immigration and borders service SEF said in a statement: “The current residence documents of British nationals living in Portugal continue to be accepted, even after the end of the transition period (31 December 2020), and until the new residence card is issued.
“The exchange of the current residence document (either an EU registration certificate issued by the town hall, or an EU permanent residence certificate issued by SEF) was carried out through the Brexit portal (brexit.sef.pt), which allowed British nationals to apply online to exchange the document.
“Until then, the certificate with the QR code, that can be downloaded from the portal, continues to be an official residency document for those under the withdrawal agreement. It is valid until the new card is issued. Furthermore, valid EU residency documents continue to be accepted for travel purposes, until the new card is issued.”