"Rather than risking a Windrush-style disaster on an even greater scale, the UK government need to step up and secure the rights of millions of EU citizens."
Calls are growing for the UK government to protect EU Citizens’ rights post-Brexit, after a Parliamentary committee warned the proposed Settlement Scheme risks a repeat of the Windrush Scandal.
The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee today has sounded a warning after it emerged that only 750,000 of the 3.8m EU nationals in the UK have applied for settled status since the scheme opened.
A new report by the committee has said that the government should legislate to ensure EU citizens are guaranteed to keep their rights.
The SNP’s Immigration spokesperson Stuart McDonald MP – who sits on the Committee – has called on the Tory government to ditch their ‘dangerous policy’ forcing EU nationals to apply to stay in the UK post-Brexit.
EU citizens in the UK who want to remain after Brexit must apply for ‘settled status’ by June 2021 if there’s a deal, or December 2020 in a no deal Brexit scenario.
The Committee report recommends the UK government enshrine in law the rights of EU citizens in the UK and operate the EU Settlement Scheme only as a means for individuals to obtain proof of their status.
The report takes the government to task on a host of key issues, arguing:
- At present there are few protections for EU citizens if the settled status scheme is wrong or errors are made. A law should be passed setting out their rights to stay
- The Settlement Resolution Centre helpline should be free
- A ‘no deal’ Brexit would leave EU citizens with no status between ending Freedom of Movement and them successfully applying for the new status
- The government has failed to say what will happen to EU citizens who are denied settled status. Will they be deported?
- Those granted settled status are only given digital confirmation – with no physical evidence. The Committee say EU citizens should be given both physical and digital proof of status
- The fact the application process is online-only risks excluding many who are not adept with technology
Given the scale of complaints about technical difficulties in applying to stay, the Committee says the Home Office has a long way to regain trust.
SNP Immigration spokesperson Stuart McDonald MP said:
“UK government plans to make EU nationals apply to stay in the UK post-Brexit need a complete overhaul. It’s ridiculous that millions are expected to know about and comply with this unworkable policy, and risks many people – including children and vulnerable people – falling through the gaps.
“Enshrining EU citizens’ rights into law is an essential step the Tories need to take to take. Rather than risking a Windrush-style disaster on an even greater scale, the UK government need to step up and secure the rights of millions of EU citizens who feel threatened by this badly ill-judged policy.”
Tory leadership candidate Michael Gove has pledged to give EU citizens currently in the UK automatic right to citizenship after Brexit – a call rejected by Sajid Javid.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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