Hundreds of thousands of European citizens face legal limbo if the Home Office does not resolve a backlog of more than 300,000 applications before the EU’s deal plan closes later this month.
With approximately three weeks before the deadline for EU workers and their families to apply for permanent residence in the UK, activists say anxiety and confusion over the rights of the 305,000 who have applied and are waiting persist. a decision, and many fear they risk a loss of rights similar to that experienced by the Windrush generation.
Latest government statistics show that out of 5,423,300 requests, 5,118,300 have been processed so far. Although the Interior Ministry has insisted that EU citizens are guaranteed their rights even if they have not received a decision on their application by June 30, activists remain unconvinced.
Caitlin Boswell, EU Citizens’ Rights Leader at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: “There has been a lack of clarity on what the rights of these 300,000 will be after the deadline. People are really anxious because, three weeks before the deadline, they don’t know their rights. And even though they have submitted an application, it is a really worrying situation. “
However, the big question mark, and what continues to cause more concern, is the number of European citizens who have not yet applied, who risk losing fundamental legal rights, including the ability to work, and face the threat of an “action of execution of the Ministry of the Interior” of 1 July.
Monique Hawkins of the campaign group the3million said she was very concerned about the number of older people who had not applied for settled status: “There is a general concern from the EU delegation in London that they have not come forward. Enough older people, and a lot of them have been here for a long time, have had their run-ins with the Home Office in the past and have permanent residency papers, so I think they’re fine. “
The group is also concerned that many people seem to be unaware that parents must ensure that children and even babies apply for settled status this month. “It will be similar in that sense to the Windrush scandal: it will take a long time. Kids now won’t find out they need established status until they try to get a job at age 18 or try to go to college, ”Hawkins said.
During the Windrush scandal, the UK government deported or threatened to deport the children of Commonwealth citizens who, Despite living and working in the UK for decades, they were told they were there illegally due to a lack of official documentation.
Now the3million advocates for an extension of the deadline, as well as legislation to avoid the cliff-edge scenario for those who don’t apply for it.
Hawkins said: “We need legislation in place to protect people who will inevitably miss that deadline, and it’s really problematic because if you miss the deadline, you don’t have the right to rent, you don’t have the right to work, you don’t have the right to access. to hospital treatment. We need legislation to suspend the hostile environment, really. “
Pierre Makhlouf, deputy director of the campaign group Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), said it will take time for the new reality to be accepted by Europeans.
“The ability of the Home Office to deny entry, detain and deport people is the Brexit experience that, sadly, all EU citizens are forced to learn, now that they are being treated in the same way as EU citizens. outside the EU, “he said. Makhlouf.
Future Borders and Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said: “Every day thousands of people gain status under the hugely successful EU settlement scheme. I urge eligible individuals to apply as soon as possible and obtain the rights they deserve under UK law. We have already confirmed that someone who has applied for the EU deal before the June 30 deadline, but has not had a decision by then, will have their rights protected until their application is decided. “
Foster said that £ 22 million had been awarded to 72 organizations to help vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups to apply. The Interior Ministry says it has more than 1,500 people working on the plan.