Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP, Neale Hanvey, has secured the support of over 50 parliamentarians from all parties across both houses for his campaign that is urging the Prime Minister to take immediate action and lift the EU Settlement Scheme deadline, which is fast approaching on June 30th [letter can be found here]. MPs and peers say the Home Office’s outreach and advertising campaign has failed to reach sufficient numbers of EU citizens amidst a pandemic that has severely disrupted support services.
Mr Hanvey and his supporters say that unless the deadline is lifted and the cliff-edge removed, significant numbers of EU citizens will be forced out of status and rights overnight. If even 1% of the estimated 4 million EU citizens resident in the UK are unable to apply, tens of thousands of people will become undocumented and left vulnerable to Hostile Environment policies, including detention and removal.
234,000 EU citizens live in Scotland, accounting for 6.3% of the Scottish population.
Neale Hanvey MP said:
“Some of the most vulnerable EU citizens who chose to make the UK their home now face an utterly intolerable situation. One that the Prime Minister personally promised would not come to pass. That is why I led this cross-party letter to put pressure on the Prime Minister and his government to do the right thing for my constituents and the many EU citizens who live across these islands.
“This issue drives to the very heart of who we want to be as a society and the relationship we hope to have with our European neighbours. The UK Government cannot claim to be extending a hand of friendship to the world when in the early days of a Brexit Scotland didn’t vote for, they remove rights and status from EU citizens who have simply missed an administrative deadline for settled status.
“These people – our friends, family and neighbours – will become fair game for the kind of impersonal and aggressive approach of this Government’s hostile environment fostered upon them by the Home Office.
“Last week in Scotland we witnessed the very best of community spirit when ordinary people stopped the Home Office as they attempted to remove two people from their homes in the heart of the Glasgow Muslim community during the holy month of Ramadan.
“The more than fifty parliamentarians who have signed my letter now call on the Prime Minister to urgently remove this arbitrary and inhumane deadline and grant automatic settled status to all EU citizens resident in the UK as a matter of urgency. He must honour his promise.”
Overwhelming research shows it is the most vulnerable EU citizens – such as looked-after children, Roma communities and the elderly – who are most likely to slip through the cracks. Recent research from the Children’s Society found that only 39% of identified EU looked-after children and care leavers have submitted applications to the EUSS, and only 28% have secured their status. As well as the most vulnerable, EU care workers and other key workers – the very people we are relying on to pull us through the COVID crisis – are in real danger of being left behind.
Signatories to the letter warn that the Government must not ‘use the success of charities to deny the existence of the many EU citizens who remain at risk’. They further highlight that the recently published guidance on late applications to the EUSS is ‘not a solution to making people undocumented, even temporarily’. A loss of legal status, liability for criminal penalties and exposure to the Hostile Environment can create far-reaching and potentially life-ruining risks. Post-June, we could see EU citizens who have lived and worked in the UK for years being criminalised simply for turning up to work the next day.
Marianne Lagrue, CORAM Children’s Legal Centre (one of the charities funded by the Home Offfice to provide EUSS support), said:
“It is positive that the Home Office has provided funding for charities, local authorities and community organisations to reach some vulnerable EU citizens and family members, and that it continues for a short time beyond the EUSS deadline. However, that funding could never reach everyone. If anything, it has demonstrated to us as grant-funded organisations the high level of need that still exists with under 50 days to go. The support work undertaken by grant-funded organisations should not be used as a justification for not taking action to amend the EUSS to protect the rights of EU citizens and their families.”
Parliamentarians strongly urge Boris Johnson to keep the promises he made to Europeans in 2016 that they would be granted automatically indefinite leave to remain post-Brexit. With the deadline just weeks away, the stakes couldn’t be higher or the situation more urgent.