British employers worry about uncertain fate of EU staff

People entering the Great Court of Cambridge University's Trinity College. (AFP)
Updated 07 July 2016

British employers worry about uncertain fate of EU staff

LONDON: British employers are hiring immigration lawyers to advise staff from EU countries, and some are urging those eligible to apply for UK residency, in the face of uncertainty over their future once Britain leaves the bloc.
Britain is home to more than 3 million citizens of other EU countries — 5 percent of the population — who are allowed to live and work in the country under single market rules which mandate freedom of movement.
Since it voted to leave the EU on June 23, Britain has not yet made clear whether it intends to leave the single market. Prime Minister David Cameron has quit, leaving the task of negotiating Britain’s exit, including its future position on free movement of EU workers, to his successor.
Many British politicians have called for a guarantee of the rights of all those already in Britain legally. But some, including Home Secretary Theresa May, favorite to succeed Cameron as ruling Conservative Party leader, say this is a matter for future negotiations, due to last two years from when Britain formally notifies the EU of its intention to leave.
Businesses that rely on EU workers say the uncertainty has already created hardship for their staff and hurt their recruitment plans.
“They are here because they need jobs, and we need a workforce,” said Stuart Fell, chairman of Metal Assemblies on the outskirts of Birmingham, which employs 120 staff of which a third are non-British EU workers, mainly from Poland. The company makes car parts for customers from Maserati to Nissan.
“The biggest concern is that they don’t feel welcome here anymore,” he said. “The government said nothing will change in the next two years, but people here are making decisions on starting a family or buying a house — they can’t put their life on hold.”
Those holding non-British EU passports do not now need any other documents to live and work in Britain, so few bother to register for a document proving their right to be in the country legally, which the government offers but says is optional.
Those in Britain for at least five years can also qualify for a certificate of permanent residency — a necessary step for those seeking British citizenship but otherwise usually redundant as long as Britain was in the EU.
Charlotte Wills, a lawyer and manager from immigration firm Fragomen Worldwide, said there had been a surge in inquiries from corporate clients — ranging from start-ups to blue chips and universities — trying to find out about more about the rules and options for their staff.
The firm was also fielding calls from private citizens wanting to “cement their status” in the UK.
“The big question for everyone is: what is going to happen? And right now, we just don’t know,” she said.
Fell, the chairman of Metal Assemblies, said he had read up on how to register in the UK and was passing the information on to individual employees. He said he would consider hiring immigration specialists if he felt that was needed.

Other employers have already called in the lawyers. In a message sent to all staff, Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said the university was working hard to clarify the situation with legal advice. It employs around 2,000 staff from other EU nations, a quarter of its workforce.
“Many of you who are citizens of countries in the European Union might want to consider the option of applying to the Home Office for Permanent Residency,” Gast wrote. “We have hired immigration specialists to help you think through the options and to help you and your families apply.”
Some 15 percent of staff at British universities come from other EU countries, according to Universities UK — an umbrella group for the sector. It also worries about the impact of Brexit on funding, as EU sources contributed more than 14 percent of research grants and contracts in 2014-2015.
The London School of Economics (LSE) e-mailed its staff to say its research division was examining the consequences of Brexit for EU funding programs.
“LSE simply would not function without the efforts of its non-UK staff, whether academics or professional services personnel,” Craig Calhoun, director of the LSE, wrote. A spokesman said the LSE had also contacted new academic recruits from the EU who had yet to take up their positions.
Tim Thomas, Director of Employment and Skills Policy at manufacturers organization EEF said a number of firms had raised concerns over the welfare of their non-British EU staff.
“With EU workers becoming increasingly anxious about the future, many employers are already taking steps to communicate with them and attempt to allay their fears,” said Thomas.

British farms employ 50,000-60,000 seasonal workers each year to pick fruit, cut flowers, or plant vegetables, and would have difficulty replacing them if they stopped coming, said John Hardman, director of agricultural recruitment agency HOPS.
“This is tremendously damaging. The workers don’t feel welcome, and they ask if they will still have a job next year. The growers are extremely concerned as to where the supply of labor is going to come from,” said Hardman, whose agency helps bring some 6,000 seasonal workers, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, to Britain every year.
“People here don’t seem to realize that pretty much every single strawberry eaten at Wimbledon will have been picked by an eastern European.”
Whatever the future rules, many EU workers themselves say the vote has already changed their outlook on life in Britain.
Daniel Rincon, a Spaniard who works in a fast food outlet in London, said he had moved to the British capital seven months ago, drawn by job prospects and the opportunity to improve his English. He had planned to stay at least four years.
“I feel that people are looking differently at me now,” he said, adding neither he nor his three Spanish flatmates planned to apply for residency.
“At the moment things don’t change, but who knows what will happen in two years time — for us now, it’s all leave, leave, leave.”

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 26 May 2020

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”