More than 100,000 EU citizens scrambling to keep the post-Brexit residency rights they were promised by Boris Johnson have faced Home Office delays of more than three months.
Fears are growing over the deadline for the EU settlement scheme on June 30, after which EU nationals risk losing their right to rent or work in the UK, and see benefits and free NHS care cut off.
Immigration Enforcement has said it will hand those who miss the cut-off a ’28-day notice’ to apply late to the EU settlement scheme and consider late applications where there are “reasonable grounds”.
But study by the IPPR think tank has shown more than 100,000 have been waiting for more than three months. The figure includes some 24,000 children.
An additional 8,000 people have faced delays to their applications for over a year.
The think tank’s figures are a snapshot of the first week in May, when the backlog was slightly lower.
Of the cases then waiting to be determined, IPPR found:
- 102,000 applications outstanding for at least three months, including those of 23,900 children under 16
- 13,000 applications had been outstanding for six months or more, (650 children)
- 8,000 applications including those of 285 children were still outstanding after at least a year
The think tank has warned the government it faces repeating the Windrush scandal, with those who drop out of the system expected to face the full force of the Home Office’s “hostile environment” tactics set up to deter illegal immigrants.
Marley Morris, associate director of IPPR’s work, said despite the 28-day grace period there were still “serious gaps” in the system.
He added: “As the deadline for the government’s EU Settlement Scheme closes in, there is a risk that many EU citizens will fall through the cracks and be left without status. This could have disastrous implications for their right to work, rent, and access services.”
Amreen Qureshi, a researcher who co-authored the report, said: “The Windrush scandal exposed the devastating impacts of the hostile environment on people who had every right to be here, many of whom had come to the UK as children.
“Now as the EU Settlement Scheme ends there is a risk of a similar scandal unfolding.
“Like with Windrush, children and young people without status after June 30 could face barriers to entering the workplace or higher education as they grow up. Delays to late applications could make their experiences even more difficult and stressful.
“Given our analysis highlights that thousands of applications have been taking months to resolve, the government must act now to ensure that individuals’ status will be protected while they wait.”
The report recommends a series of reforms to the settlement scheme, including more safeguards for the elderly, those without a permanent address, and those with significant language or literacy problems.