What Brexit means for a small family in Witten

WAZ. Great Britain officially no longer belongs to the European Union since January 31st. Brexit also has an impact on Germany, for example on commercial companies that export to the island.

Deutsch-englische Kleinfamilie: Margit Hirtenjohann mit ihrem Großneffen, für den sie die Vormundschaft übernommen hat. Foto: Privat

But what does the exit mean for the “little man”? Margit Hirtenjohann looks after a child with English citizenship in Witten. She is the guardian of the five-year-old and has a lot to struggle with – not just with a flood of applications.

Her sister emigrated to England many years ago. Their daughter had a son in May 2015, says the woman from Witten. “It was a disaster in the family because the child’s mother is mentally ill.” After five months, she left the little one at a “social center” in Kent – for fear of not being able to take care of him if she had it go bad. Under no circumstances did she want to entrust her grandchildren to her separated parents.

Woman from Witten: Decision became an affair of the heart

On November 26, 2015, the aunt in Witten received a call that was supposed to turn Hirtenjohann’s life upside down: whether she was ready to take in the child. The 62-year-old trained banker, who later switched to health and child nurse, did not hesitate for long.

The “strong, single” woman she sees herself as had just retired and was wondering what useful things she could do with her precious time. “Golf or tennis – that’s not my thing.” She decided to raise her niece’s child. It became her “affair of the heart”.

The little boy had now spent three months in a crisis intervention family. She finally wanted to give him a real home, says Hirtenjohann. After all, he belongs to the family. But before that she had to travel to England, where she had to be examined from head to toe and look after the child for a week. “Everything was checked.” In July 2016, a judge awarded her the boy.

Guardian would like to apply for German citizenship for the child

Due to the Brexit regulations, the woman from Witten now has to apply for a residence permit for the little one so that he can continue to live here and his therapies can continue to take place. The boy is lively and refreshing, but not an easy child due to the living conditions, explains Margit Hirtenjohann.

He has no German identity papers, only the red passport, which expires in May. English people do not have an identity card, but usually identify themselves with a social security card or passport. In order to apply for the new passport, she must send all of the original papers to England. “It’s not a good feeling to give all of this out of hand.”

Margit Hirtenjohann has already tried twice to apply for German citizenship for the boy. That would work at the earliest after he had lived in Germany for eight years, she got to hear at some point. In order to be able to receive foster child benefit from the English authorities, she would have had to open an account there. “That won’t work if I don’t live there.” She found a solution through a nephew who lives in England.

Wittenerin has never regretted her decision

The woman from Witten would also like to apply that her “case” be handed over to the German foster child service. Right from the start, she brought the Witten Youth Welfare Office on board, asked for support, exchange opportunities, meetings – and got help. “Although they are not responsible at all.” Corona then slowed down a lot. In order to get this application through in Brexit times, she has now hired a lawyer.

Despite all the difficulties, Margit Hirtenjohann has never regretted taking her great-nephew in with her, although she finds little support in her own family. She confidently takes all the hurdles that have not just begun with the search for a suitable apartment and that do not end with the explanations that she has to provide for her German and British citizenship of the child every time she travels at the airport.

“There are people who are waiting for me to give up,” says the woman from Witten. Not an option for them. Because she can also count on the “great support” of the Johannis day care center that the five-year-old attends, for example. He goes to school in the summer. Hirtenjohann’s greatest wish: “That peace finally returns to his life.”

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For Brits who lived in Germany before January 1, 2021, the situation is relatively straightforward, says Leif Berndt from the Foreigners Department of the Witten Public Order Office. You have to report your stay to the responsible immigration authorities by June 30, 2021 and you will then receive a new residence document. You do not have to apply for this yourself, but biometric data are recorded for it.

The situation is more difficult for British nationals who only moved to Germany after December 31, 2020. In terms of residence law, you are now in the same position as citizens of various other third countries. This means that they need a visa for a long-term stay or to take up employment. If you want to work here, you need a permit.

WAZ report by Annette Kreikenbohm

Club address

Barking & Dagenham Witten Club e.V.
Fredi-Ostermann-Straße 1
58454 Witten, Germany

email: info@barking-dagenham.de