The Home Office’s plan to send 28 day enforcement notices to anyone who has not applied for settled status by 30th June cut off date is a ‘recipe for disaster’ say campaigners for EU citizens.
“We know the type of people who will not be making applications. They are the vulnerable, people such as victims of trafficking, modern slavery, the elderly, and children”.
Head of policy at the 3million, the grassroots campaign group, Luke Piper said: “This paints a very grim picture of potentially thousands of people who are already identified as in vulnerable categories by the Home Office who will miss the closing date and therefore face potential life-changing consequences.”
Kevin Foster, the immigration and future borders minister has said all late applications will be considered if there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline to apply for settled status, for those who have been in the country for five years or more, or pre-settled status, for those who have been in the UK for less than five years.
Officials say the reasonable grounds have been deliberately designed to be broad to catch as many people as possible as the default policy is to award people settled or pre-settled status.
Immigration lawyers including Piper have however complained that the 28-day notices have added to the confusion because they imply that people will have rights, when in fact those who apply late automatically lose their right to live, work, rent or access the NHS on 1 July. Piper said: “This is an act of deflection”.
Ilda de Sousa, a partner with City law firm Kingsley Napley said: “It is misleading”, as those in work will also face a cliff-edge on 30 June whether vulnerable or not. She cited one client, a German commodity broker, who had been sent to Australian to set up an office for a British firm and could have lost out if he had not been advised in time that a permanent residency document he acquired after the referendum did not protect him.
Foster has pledge that benefits will not be stopped on 1 July and it will work with the department for work and pensions to establish a data set of those on benefits who have not applied by the deadline to avert scenarios such as homelessness.
The Home Office said it also has a mechanism that enables charities that encounter highly vulnerable people to have their applications fast-tracked. And it clarified that enforcement teams would not be knocking on doors or doing checks with business owners, advising all employers to urge citizens who are late applying to do so and to contact the Home Office for advice.
A spokesperson said: “Under our flexible and pragmatic approach to late applications, fro 1 July 2021, where immigration enforcement encounter a person without status under the EU settlement scheme, they will provide them with a written notice giving them an opportunity to apply to the scheme, normally within 28 days”.
“If after 28 days the individual has not applied to the scheme, they may be liable for enforcement action and will not be eligible for work, benefits or services. Whether such action is taken will be determined in accordance with immigration enforcement policy guidance relating to those in breach of immigration law and following a careful assessment of the individual’s circumstances”.