Britons travelling to Sweden from the UK were refused entry and held at an airport in a poorly heated room in the latest example of Brexit bureaucracy problems and COVID-19 restrictions.
Lauren Branthwaite was among a group of British nationals who arrived on a Ryanair flight in Gothenburg on Sunday night but were detained at the airport by police.
“We are all Swedish residents, living, working and paying taxes in Sweden. And we have all shown proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours from time of travel, essentially we all had all necessary documents that were stated on (Swedish government) website,” she said.
“Upon arrival, the Swedish border police informed us that if the test was not taken by an ‘approved’ provider we would be refused entry. Since being removed from the plane at 19:46pm, we were left standing on the tarmac at -1° for almost an hour with no idea what was happening.
She added: “With no written proof or legal explanation of entry refusal, the police asked us to re-board the plane and travel back to the UK. Some chose to do this and boarded the return flight, others including myself did not and we remain detained in the airport unable to leave and unsure what will happen to us.”
Ms Brathwaite said “We are being kept in a poorly heated room, the lights remain switched on and there is a constant beeping from a broken alarm system. We have no beds to sleep on and the chairs have armrests so we are unable to lay across.
“The only choice is that we sleep on the cold floor or sit up. We have been given two thin blankets to keep warm. Eventually, almost 5h since the plane landed we were given microwave food and bottled water at 23:30pm.”
The Swedish government did not respond to requests for comment.
Judith Gough, the British Ambassador to Sweden, said she was “very concerned” that Britons had suffered travel disruption.
The number of people affected was not immediately clear but Ms Gough called on Swedish authorities to clear up the “teething problems”.
Ms Gough said UK citizens were also subject to tighter travel restrictions because of the new variant of COVID-19.
Across Europe, airlines refused documents that before Brexit had been valid proof of Britons’ status as residents in Spain, Italy and Germany.
The travel chaos came amid tightened restrictions brought in because of a COVID-19 variant that has been blamed for a surge in contagion rates in the UK.
However, the bureaucratic complexities of Britain’s departure from the European Union were also blamed by campaign groups for the travel problems encountered by British nationals.
Fiona Godfrey, of British in Europe, which represents some of the three million UK nationals living in the EU, said: “Under the Withdrawal Agreement, Brits who were resident in an EU state before midnight on December 31 2020 are not subject to Schengen visa rules. We should be able to enter without having our passport stamped if we can produce either the new residence card or our existing residence card.
“One problem we heard a lot about over the weekend was that returning UK citizens routinely had their passports stamped. This meant they were being admitted as visitors rather than as residents so they could fall foul of the 90/180 visa-free rule. We don’t know whether they will but we won’t know that until someone leaves the Schengen area in early April and tries to return again.”
Nine Britons trying to return to Spain from London on Saturday were stopped from flying after being told at Heathrow Airport that their green-coloured certificate of EU citizenship with a foreign national identification number issued by Spain was not valid.
On Sunday both the British and Spanish governments said the card was still valid.
UK travellers have also been blocked from entering the Netherlands following the end of the Brexit transition period.
Dutch border police have turned away 10 British nationals since 1 January, after the UK officially left the European Union, reports broadcaster NOS.