Home English Community Fears over ‘surprising’ Ankara Agreement court ruling

Fears over ‘surprising’ Ankara Agreement court ruling

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There are fears Turkish workers will be stripped of their dreams of indefinite leave to remain in the UK

Turkish citizens could soon be prevented from permanently settling in the UK even if they have spent five years working in the country under the Ankara Agreement.

The Home Office has told applicants for indefinite leave to remain that their paperwork will be delayed for up to six months while it considers a recent court ruling that could block the popular visa route entirely.

It will startle thousands of Turkish passport holders who have come to Britain through the Ankara Agreement, a European visa scheme also known as the ECAA.
What is the ECAA?

The Ankara Agreement – formally known as the European Community Association Agreement – entitles Turkish nationals to bypass all domestic visa regulations and set up their own business in the UK.
The requirements are more generous than those offered to other non-EU citizens wanting work permits and applications are free of charge.
Thousands of Turkish passport holders have applied since Britain first started accepting applications in 2005, but there are fears in the community that Brexit will be used as an opportunity to withdraw the visa type.
Turkey’s ambassador to the UK Abdurrahman Bilgiç told Haber newspaper in March that they were aware of the concerns and relayed these during regular meetings with Home Office officials.
Mr Bilgiç said Turkish Consulate officials had been assured it would be “business as usual” with the Ankara Agreement until the UK leaves the EU, and that there would be no “slowing down process” over the next two years.

“I am surprised by the judgement because it appears to call into question the legitimate expectation that – following compliance with the conditions of visas – leave to remain is available,” said David Burrowes, a Conservative politician who is running for re-election in a Turkish-speaking part of north London.

Thousands of Turkish people have applied for indefinite leave to remain and subsequently become British citizens after running Ankara Agreement businesses in the UK for five years.

But a ruling published last month by the Upper Tribunal – one of the highest courts in Britain –appears to suggest this route should now be closed.

Block the end goal

In a 17-page judgment published on 24 April, Mr Justice McCloskey ruled “the status of settlement in the UK for such Turkish nationals and their family members cannot derive in any way from the ECAA or its Additional Protocol”.

If the ruling is fully implemented, it would mean Ankara Agreement workers would be able to retain their businesses but never gain the right to settle or apply for UK citizenship.

The Home Office told Haber that the general election campaign meant it had not yet decided how to respond, but confirmed Ankara Agreement applicants seeking indefinite leave to remain had been told their paperwork would be delayed.

Applications still being processed

Ahmet Engin, who runs the immigration law firm CSS & Co in north London and Turkey, stressed the ruling did not shut down the Ankara Agreement entirely.

“This ruling does not affect Turkish citizens applying to set up a business through the Ankara Agreement for the first time, or those applying to extend their stay in the UK,” he told Haber newspaper.

David Burrowes, Conservative candidate for Enfield Southgate, said he found the ruling ‘surprising’

“It affects those people who have completed four or five years under the Ankara Agreement and are now applying for settled status. It also affects anyone wanting to their families to join them in the UK.”

But long-term Turkish workers who have recently applied for indefinite leave to remain may find their paperwork – including their passports – will be retained by officials for an extra six months.

No comment during election

A Home Office spokeswoman told Haber that the ongoing general election campaign meant it could not presently comment on the ruling.

A statement said: “Following a recent court judgment we are currently considering how to proceed with indefinite leave to remain applications for Turkish nationals who have come to the UK via the Ankara agreement and their dependents.

“As this judgment raised complex issues and in line with our commitment to keep customers informed of the progress of their application, we wrote to them to advise that their case could not be considered within the six-month service standard, set out why this was the case and explained that we would expect to make a decision within the next six months.”


What is the ECAA?

The Ankara Agreement – formally known as the European Community Association Agreement – entitles Turkish nationals to bypass all domestic visa regulations and set up their own business in the UK.

The requirements are more generous than those offered to other non-EU citizens wanting work permits and applications are free of charge.

Thousands of Turkish passport holders have applied since Britain first started accepting applications in 2005, but there are fears in the community that Brexit will be used as an opportunity to withdraw the visa type.

Turkey’s ambassador to the UK Abdurrahman Bilgiç told Haber newspaper in March that they were aware of the concerns and relayed these during regular meetings with Home Office officials.

Mr Bilgiç said Turkish Consulate officials had been assured it would be “business as usual” with the Ankara Agreement until the UK leaves the EU, and that there would be no “slowing down process” over the next two years.