Representatives of the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the SDLP have today written to the Prime Minister urging him to take fresh measures to protect the rights of European citizens after Brexit. Noting the pitfalls in the current application process, many of which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, they are calling on the government to introduce a guaranteed ‘right to stay’ for EU citizens who already live in the UK.
Well over three million EU citizens currently live in the UK, though the exact number is unknown. Under the current scheme, they must apply for Settled Status or have their right to be in the UK revoked from June 2021. Although a large proportion of EU citizens have now applied, not all have been successful. 1.5 million have been granted “pre-settled status”, which expires in five years unless a further application is successful, and tens of thousands of applications have been marked as invalid, refused or withdrawn. The UK government has so far refused to guarantee that absences due to Covid will not be held against future applications.
With many millions of people’s status in jeopardy, campaigners and politicians are concerned that even a very small failure rate would lead to many thousands of people losing their status. “Unless the government acts, many thousands of people could fall through the cracks,” the letter states. A ‘right to stay’ would circumvent this process by guaranteeing EU citizens’ status in law, with no compulsory application.
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavillion, said:
“The millions of EU citizens who have made their home in the UK are not just a statistic, or an economic asset – they are our neighbours, friends and families. The idea that we could allow any one of them to lose their status here should fill us with shame. Yet that is inevitably what will happen to thousands of people unless the Settled Status system is fundamentally overhauled, even if the overwhelming majority do apply successfully.
“During the EU referendum, those campaigning for Leave said that Europeans living in the UK would have a right to stay, not a right to apply to a convoluted system which might reject them. Today, we are asking that this very basic promise be honoured.”
Ian Blackford MP, SNP Westminster leader, said:
“The UK government must confirm the rights of EU nationals to remain as a matter of urgency.
“Many people risk falling through the cracks, causing uncertainty and distress for thousands of EU nationals who have made the UK their home.
“It is the SNP position that we should remain in the EU Single Market and continue to benefit from the free movement of people. This not only guarantees the ongoing rights of EU citizens and their family members, but Scots living and working elsewhere in the EU.”
Alena Ivanova, an organiser for Right to Stay and Another Europe is Possible, said:
“The people affected by this situation are agricultural workers, nurses, shopkeepers, delivery drivers. They couldn’t vote in the general election, their pay has been stagnating for years and they have been made scapegoats in the public debate on immigration. The coronavirus crisis has sadly shown us that despite the gestures and kind words, these workers often don’t get what they need the most – decent pay and security of status, regardless of where they come from.
“While the Home Office paints a rosy picture of the success of the Settlement scheme, there are still millions at risk of losing their rights in the coming years. A system that asks you to apply to stay in your home – in some cases twice, is not what European nationals were promised. Even if we assume that 98 or 99 per cent of them apply successfully that would still mean tens of thousands of people facing deportation from the place they have made their home. Since coronavirus struck, we have had a plethora of reports of new issues which simply cannot be overcome in time – from a lack of awareness and support in the application process to periods of absence from the UK during the crisis. It’s time for the Home Office to re-assess the scheme and grant automatic status to all.”
1. For more information, please ring Michael on 07964791663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Right to Stay is a joint initiative of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Another Europe is Possible. Its website, which contains supporting information, can be viewed here: https://www.righttostay.org.uk/
3. The full text of the letter and signatories can be viewed here: https://www.anothereurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/PM-correspondance-060920.pdf