As Britain prepares to give formal notification of its intention to leave the European Union, eastern European communities have told Sky News of their concerns about how negotiations could affect their status in the UK.
Some say they already feel like second-class citizens because of working restrictions initially put on migrants from central and eastern Europe when they joined the EU.
But with Article 50 about to be triggered, community leaders say when a deal is struck they fear being worse off than migrants from western European countries like France and Germany.
Florina Tudose, of the East European Resource Centre, said: “People are worried that at the end of Brexit negotiations they won’t have the same deal as countries such as France, Germany and Spain.
“Yes there are some rules in place that the UK is not allowed to negotiate with single countries from the EU, but we don’t know if that is going to be the case or not because we have never been through this situation before.
“People are worried about their future status in the UK.
“They fear they won’t be treated equally to other EU citizens from western Europe because in the past there has been a sense of people from eastern Europe being some kind of second-class citizens.
“Countries which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 have always been treated a bit differently and having experienced all sorts of restrictions on free movement, for example having to apply for a work permit.
“People now are concerned that they might experience these kinds of special restrictions once again when Britain actually leaves the EU.”
Florina is from Romania and along with her colleague Katarzyna Zagrodniczek, from Poland, they have been visiting shops and businesses as outreach workers, helping communities with advice about their rights.
Among those they met up with was George Dragnea, a Romanian barber working in Stratford in east London.
He said eastern Europeans do sometimes feel like second-class citizens.
“Eastern European countries were communist countries in the past with a very different culture and different lifestyles,” he said.
“Italian, French and Spanish were capitalist – the same as British people. Sometimes I think people look down on us and that is upsetting.”
When Romania and Bulgaria first joined the EU, migrants to the UK had to apply for work permits. Polish workers initially had to apply for a workers’ registration scheme.
Romanian shop worker Daniela Neamtu has been in Britain for five years.
When she first came to the UK she said the restrictions in place made people feel discriminated against.
She said: “I always felt inferior. What is being said about Romanians – we are not all the same. We’re not all thieves and rapists.”
Academics have said deals with individual countries would threaten the unity of the remaining EU 27 nations.
However, they agree that migrants from eastern and central European countries could be at the back of the queue in a new immigration policy.
David Goodhart, of the think-tank Policy Exchange, said: “The policy would not intend to discriminate against people from central and eastern Europe and indeed would not discriminate against people from central and eastern Europe, but it would discriminate against people with a lower skills profile – people who are coming here to do basic jobs.
“And if anything is going to come out of Brexit surely it has to be that you reduce the inflows of people coming to do those kinds of jobs.
“That’s one of the reasons why people voted for Brexit in the first place and that will disproportionately impact on the people doing those jobs – and they are disproportionately from central and eastern Europe.”