It is feared that hundreds of thousands of EU nationals risk losing their rights overnight. Stuart McDonald, SNP immigration spokesman wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel claiming that citizens from Europe were struggling to access social security due to the complex rules in the Habitual Residency Test.
This follows reports of EU nationals being stopped at the border with extra demands to prove their status, and also students are being told to pay more than £1000 to use the NHS before claiming it back as a refund. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has warned thousands, including care workers, could miss the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme, risking being criminalised overnight.
Step by Step the UK Government appears intent on rolling out the hostile environment to EU citizens, who were repeatedly promised by UK ministers that their rights would not be impacted by Brexit. This is yet another broken promise from the Tory government.
We are already seeing EU citizens who have made their home here in the UK, have contributed to society and helped tackle the coronavirus crisis, being stopped at the border, refused social security and encouraged to leave. This is not the mark of a government doing what they can to encourage EU citizens to stay, or protecting their rights.
The fear is that much worse will follow in July after the deadline for settled status applications passes and many thousands will be stripped of their rights overnight. Failing to automatically extend the rights of EU nationals in the UK and instead forcing them to apply for settled status, the UK Government would be responsible for tens if not hundreds of thousands losing all of their rights overnight.
The Prime Minister is urged to heed warnings and keep the promise he and his Home Secretary made during the Brexit referendum and extend the rights of EU nationals in the UK automatically.
Kevin Forster, UK Government minister for future borders and immigration defended the approach, explaining there had been more than five million applications already. He said: “There are four months left to apply, before 30th June 2021 deadline, with support available online, on the phone and from our grant funded partners”.
“The government has made it clear where a person eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply. As already confirmed, the Home Office intends to publish clear, non-exhaustive guidance in spring 2021 on what constitutes reasonable grounds for missing the deadline. We will take a pragmatic and flexible approach when considering the circumstances of each case, so that those who miss the deadline through no fault of their own can still obtain lawful status in the UK”.