Campaigners call for settled status to be replaced with automatic right to stay

Due to the coronavirus crisis, thousands are at risk of losing their status in the UK.

Campaign groups Another Europe is Possible supported by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants have launched a campaign calling for the dropping of the ‘settled status’ regime for EU citizens in light of the coronavirus crisis.

They say that much of the support needed to make settled status applications will not now be in place. The government has completely stopped accepting applications by post, and it has closed all of its scanning centres.

Many migrants, like everyone else, will face substantial disruption in their lives and lack of access to guidance and public services. And public awareness campaigns that were planned have been shelved for the time being, meaning that the most vulnerable and least online migrants may well not be reached.

Zoe Gardner, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said

“The coronavirus crisis means that the entire system of applications is at risk of failing and simply should not be a priority at this time. Support services to help people through the process are largely face-to-face and simply won’t be able to function for a prolonged period, with charities designed to support EU citizens severely limited in their ability to support vulnerable people.”

Alena Ivanova, from Another Europe is Possible, said

“Migrants have kept this country – its shops, farms, healthcare system and deliveries – running while the government has implemented cuts that have crippled our NHS and public services. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted that reality.”

Clara Angela Di Stefano, an NHS intensive care nurse from Italy, said

“In the next few months, migrants are going to save countless lives in NHS hospitals. Many of us will get sick, and some will die. We are proud to do this work – keeping the health service functioning in the country that we call home in the time of its greatest crisis. But when this crisis is over, many thousands of EU migrants could lose their status here because the government has insisted on persisting with a broken application system.”

The government could replace the scheme with a simple’ right to remain’ in a single piece of legislation as part of the many emergency measures it is taking to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Emma Burnell is a freelance journalist and political consultant.

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