Giovanni Palmiero immigrated from Italy to the United Kingdom in the 1960s and has been living, working, and raising his family in the London area for the better part of six decades. Thanks to the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union (EU), Palmiero and other immigrants from within the EU had been able to stay in the United Kingdom with minimal fuss. However, Brexit threw everything into chaos.
Fortunately for Palmiero and immigrants like him, the country’s EU Settlement Scheme allows for such immigrants to remain in the U.K., pending meeting certain conditions and filling out the right paperwork with the Home Office, the country’s immigration authority.
Palmiero, with the help of immigrant-rights activist and volunteer Dimitri Scarlato, was attempting to dot all of the i’s and cross all of the t’s on his immigration paperwork so that he could be allowed to stay in the country that has been his home for the past 60 years when a computer glitch caused him and his helper to do a double-take.
“I immediately noticed that something was wrong because when I scanned in his passport, it imported his biometric data not as 1919 but as 2019. It then skipped the face recognition section which is what it does with under-12s,” Scarlato said.
In other words, the computer system thought Palmiero was only one-year-old, not 101-years-old. And since the facial-recognition software wasn’t an option, the system said that Palmiero would have to confirm his identity another way: he could bring in his parents to verify his identity.
That is, of course, not in any way possible, so Scarlato started making phone calls to try to sort things out.
“It took two calls and a half an hour for them to understand it was the [computer’s] fault not mine,” Scarlato said.
Eventually, the agency realized its mistake. However, more computer glitches bedeviled the man and his volunteer helper. For example, the agency wanted the aged man to provide proof that he had been in the U.K. for the past five years, even though that very same agency has access to decades’ worth of insurance and tax information to corroborate Palmiero’s details.
Palmiero’s son, Assuntino, said that the elderly man isn’t going to be thrown out of Britain over the computer glitches. But he worries about what effects these problems will have on other elderly immigrants who don’t have the time, money, and volunteer resources to navigate Britain’s glitch-plagued post-Brexit immigration system.
“It’s like a humiliation, you’ve been here so long and then all of a sudden this happens. I am not worried about him because he has got us but it’s completely unfair on old people,” Assuntino said.