Between rock and hard place: Diary on an EU citizen in the UK (36)

On how various failed attempts to renew your passport can be a reminder of how the uncertainty of Brexit for a EU citizen in the UK is further amplified if your own country of origin doesn’t seem to care that much about you.

My Italian passport expires at the end of July. As an Italian formally resident abroad (AIRE), I depend for all bureaucratic matters on the Italian Consulate General in my country of residence, in my case is London. This includes the renewal of my passport. In order to do so, a visit to the Consulate in London is mandatory. However, except for documented emergencies, to arrange a visit an appointment needs to be booked beforehand exclusively via phone. If you are lucky this means a waiting time of well over a month, but if you are not, this means no appointment at all. Having tried myself quite a few times in the last month or so and having checked various online discussion fora, it is indeed a matter a luck and perseverance (which requires a PA or a lot of spare time, neither of which are available to me) to have one’s phone call answered at all. The Consulate blames the large number of Italians in London and surrounding areas and the limited human resources available for the problem – from a rough calculation there is one employee for every 20,000 Italians.  Fair enough then, they say at the Consulate. But this problem is nothing new, online the delays at the Italian consulate has been known and debated for years and very little has been done to address it since (a part from reducing the ways to book an appointment). So, with a sense of resignation, I am waiting for my passport to expire. At which point I will be stuck in the UK, waiting for an ‘emergency’ (as defined on the Consulate website) for a trip of hope to the Consulate without an appointment for renewing the passport. You can call this an ‘emergency’ produced by the Consulate’s own (dysfunctional) system.

Luckily I have a valid ID card with me, so for now I can travel back and forth in the EU, even going on holiday in Italy this summer. But my ID will shortly – possibly even from March next year – not be good any longer. Already now, paper ID cards like the Italian one are looked with suspicion at Gatwick and Heathrow and blamed for delays at border checks.

With Brexit approaching rapidly and the promised certainty of the December joint statement which was meant to reassure both EU nationals in the UK and Brits in the EU about the future’s residence status, becoming less and less certain by the day, the inadequacy of the Italian consulate takes an all different meaning for the Italians in the UK (and for their non-Italian partners who may have to wait years for a naturalisation application submitted in London).  At a time of great uncertainty, it sends out a clear message to them: we don’t care about you. At least, this is how many of us interpret it.

To make the situation worse, both bureaucratically and politically, here comes the newly appointed Italian government, and in particular the new Home Secretary, Matteo Salvini, infamous leader of the far-right xenophobic (Northern) League. Salvini is well-known for his hate for foreigners who come to live and work in Italy. But he also hates the Roma, both foreign and Italy born, and southern Italians, both those living in the northern regions and in the south. Salvini, in particular, seems to have a problem with Neapolitans (I’m one of them) for whom he has been calling (chanting) on the Vesuvius to erupt and do some cleansing.  But Salvini’s dislike knows no borders and includes also fellow Italians who live abroad. Considering that he now leads a crucial ministry for migration and citizenship issues, one can expect things only going from bad to worse, with even less resources for the Italians abroad and the offices that should liaise with them. Does this count as an ‘emergency’?

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