The UK will deport EU citizens after Brexit if they do not apply for the right to remain in time, Home Office minister Brandon Lewis says he told a German newspaper they would have to leave even if they met all the criteria for a residency permit.
Campaign group the 3million, which represents EU citizens in the UK, said this was “no way to treat people”.
The Home Office said 1.8 million people have applied to the scheme and others have until “at least” December 2020. It said those with ‘reasonable grounds’ for missing the date would be granted an extension to apply for the right to live and work in the UK. Currently, EU nationals – and their families – living in the UK by 31st October have until the end of 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in the event of a no-deal Brexit, or the end of June 2021 if there is a deal.
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About 800 EU citizens have been granted the right to remain in the UK using a system intended for those affected by the Windrush scandal. Many are using it because of a lack of trust in the government’s main EU settlement scheme, which MP’s have said is ‘blighted by technical issues’. Unlike the Windrush scheme, it does not provide a physical ID card showing a persons indefinite right to stay. The Home Office says it gives people “secure digital status”. It added that the settlement scheme protects the rights of EU citizens in the UK law. The Windrush scheme was set up after individuals arriving from Commonwealth countries between 1948 and 1971 we wrongly told they were in the UK illegally. But the application system is open to anyone who arrived, or whose parents arrived before 1989. Individuals are invited to a Post Office to provide fingerprints and an electronic signature, and would then receive a biometric ID card, which is usually received within a month of applying.
The Home Office says it does not have a figure for the number of EU citizens currently living in the UK, but estimates by the migration Observatory put it at 3.3 million, excluding Irish citizens who have the right to settled status already.
Mfr Lewis told Die Welt (in German) “if EU citizens until this point of time have not registered and have no adequate reason for it, then the valid immigration rules will be applied”.
When pressed on whether that would include those who met the legal requirements for residence but did not apply in the next 14 months, he replied: “Theoretically yes, we will apply the rules”.
Maike Bohn, spokeswoman for the 3million said the organisation had pressed the government “for years” to acknowledge what would happen to those who have not acquired the status in 2021.
“Today after much wait, it is confirmed that hundreds and thousands of people will be punished with the threat of removal from their home. This is no way to treat people, let alone what was promised” she said. “Those people who miss the tight deadline will face the full force of the hostile environment”.
“Windrush – style scandal” – She said this was the ‘grim reality’ of the government’s position, no matter how many times they repeat the phrase “EU citizens and their families are our friends, neighbours and colleagues and we want them to stay”. Those applying for settled status must prove their identity, show they live in the UK and declare any criminal convictions. Once granted settled status, they can use the NHS, study and access public funds and benefits, as well as travel in and out of the country.
The total number of settlement applications finalised by the end of September was 1.5 million according to figures released this week by the Home Office. Of these 61% were granted settled status and 38% were given pre-settled status, which can be applied to be updated once someone has lived in the country continuously for five years. The conclusion in 0.5^% of cases was classed as having “other outcomes£.
Lib Deb home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said she was “absolutely appalled” by Brandon Lewis’s deportation threat and she predicted ‘thousands’ of people would be left undocumented by the ‘arbitrary’ deadline. She warned it could create another Windrush-style scandal when individuals who arrived from the Commonwealth countries between 1948 and 1971 were wrongly told they were in the UK illegally, despite living in the country for decades.
Brandon Lewis has finally confirmed what we have known all along: “Boris Johnson has no intention of keeping his promise to automatically guarantee the right of EU citizens living in the UK” said Ms Jardine. This is totally unacceptable.
Mr Lewis tweeted in response to his critics:-
“My words are somewhat taken out of context #EU citizens have till at least December 2020 and there’s plenty of help available to apply. We’ve now had 2 million applications and we’ve always said we will allow time for those with reasonable grounds for missing the deadline”
A statement from the Home Office said: “We have received two million applications and are looking for reasons to grant status, not refuse, and EU citizens have until at least December 2020 to apply. We have always been clear that where they have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline they will be given a further opportunity to apply.