Award-winning Peterborough chef refused right to remain indefinitely in UK despite living here for 15 years

Damian Wawrzyniak at House of Feasts, Eye Green
Damian Wawrzyniak at House of Feasts, Eye Green
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An award-winning Peterborough chef who cooked at the 2012 Olympics and has served the Royal family has been refused the right to remain indefinitely in the UK after Brexit despite having lived in the country for 15 years.

Dad of two Damian Wawrzyniak (39), a Polish national who owns the House of Feasts restaurant in Eye Green, was expecting to have his Settled Status application approved without any problems when he made his application as he has lived in the UK well past the five-year threshold required for permanent residence.

But he was surprised when the Home Office said he had only been awarded pre-Settled Status which is generally for EU nationals who do not have five years of continuous residence in the UK.

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Mr Wawrzyniak, who lives just outside Peterborough, said he submitted his application last week alongside his partner and her two parents.

“Straight away I was told to give more proof – things like bank statements – which I sent back to them,” he said.

“Then I received this letter today saying that I had not been approved.

“It made me feel not good enough for this country which I have given my life to for 15 years. I have cooked for the royals twice, I worked at the London 2012 Olympics, but apparently that is not good enough.”

Mr Wawrzyniak said his partner and her father were granted Settled Status, but both he and his partner’s mother were only given pre-Settled status without any explanation as to why.

Settled Status is supposed to be available to any EU national who has lived in Britain continuously for five years and gives them the right to live, work, claim benefits or access healthcare in the UK for an indefinite period.

If an EU national does not have five years’ continuous residence in Britain but started living in the UK by either December 31, 2020 or the date of a no-deal Brexit, then they can be granted pre-Settled status.

They will then have to apply again to change this to Settled Status once they have five years’ continuous residence. It also means they have to maintain continuous residence in the UK to ensure they then earn the right to stay.

This means, despite being a resident for more than a decade and paying thousands in taxes and contributions, Mr Wawrzyniak could face this uncertainty again in 2024.

The chef, who has previously called on the Government to change the settled status process into a ‘registration’ process, first settled in Cambridge when he moved over from Poland in 2005 and, he said, started his first job as a chef in Great Yarmouth “the next day”.

“Since I arrived in the UK I never had a day off,” he said. “I have never had a problems here, I have never had any issues.

“My restaurant (House of Feasts) was called the best Polish restaurant in Britain!

“We employ people, we work with the local community and I am the key man of the business. I am the owner so if I go everything will go.

“The UK is my home and I was really, really unhappy about this whole process in the first place. I will definitely be appealing this decision and have already spoken with my solicitor about it.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Mr Wawrzyniak has already been granted pre-settled status under the scheme, but our caseworkers have contacted him to assist him in providing the evidence needed to be granted settled status.

“Automatic checks against government data are making it simple for many people to apply successfully and in 79 per cent of concluded cases during testing, applicants did not needed to provide any further evidence of residence.

“One million EU citizens and their families have been granted status so far and they have until at least December 2020 to make an application.”

According to recent government figures, just under one million people have applied to the Settled Status scheme so far.

Of these, 63.6 per cent were granted Settled Status whereas 35.9 per cent received pre-Settled Status.

Although the Home Office has committed to protecting the rights of EU nationals who already live in the UK, critics have said that the system is flawed and could lead to people not being granted the rights they are entitled to.