Brandon Lewis admits EU citizens who miss immigration status deadline could face deportation
EU citizens who do not secure immigration status by the deadline for the Home Office’s Brexit scheme could be subject to deportation, Brandon Lewis has confirmed.
This is the first time the Government has laid bare the consequences for European nationals that do not apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in time, despite Boris Johnson previously vowing to guarantee automatic rights for those affected.
Speaking to German media outlet Die Welt, Mr Lewis said: “If EU citizens have not registered by then without an adequate justification, the immigration rules will apply."
Pressed on whether this could mean deportation despite fulfilling all legal conditions for a residence permit, he added: “Theoretically, yes, we will apply the applicable rules.”
The security minister also said that the process - which gives EU citizens until 30 June 2021 to apply if the UK leaves with a deal, or 31 December 2020 in the event of no-deal – was designed so that “no citizen ever gets into this situation”.
The comments come as Home Office figures revealed 1.5 million people had been granted status through the scheme out of 1.8 million applications received by the end of September.
The data also showed two people had been rejected on “suitability grounds”, and that “other outcomes” – withdrawn, invalid and void applications – made up 0.5% of applicants so far.
Lib Dem Home Office spokesperson Christine Jardine said she was "absolutely appalled" at the remarks.
“Brandon Lewis has finally confirmed what we’ve known all along: Boris Johnson has no intention of keeping his promise to automatically guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK," she said.
“No one seriously believes the Home Office will have granted Settled Status to all 3.6 million EU citizens by the Conservatives’ arbitrary December 2020 deadline. Thousands will inevitably be left effectively undocumented – and now the Government is saying it will deport them."
A spokesperson for the campaign group the3million, Maike Bohn, said: “We have pressed the Government for years on what happens to those who do not have a 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.
“We don’t know at all how many people will need to apply - there are no reliable data on the number of EU citizens living in the UK - and there will never be a 100% success rate for a new scheme like the EU settlement scheme.
She added: “Those people who miss the tight deadline will face the full force of the Hostile Environment. That is the grim reality of the UK 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’.”
Charities have also feared that vulnerable groups such children in care and those in “extreme old age” could be among those unable to meet the Home Office deadline.
Responding to Mr Lewis' comments, The Children's Society's policy and research director Sam Royston added: "We are seeking urgent confirmation that all EU children in care and care leavers will be exempt from this harmful policy by receiving automatic settled status.
"The Government must also clarify that other vulnerable children and young people will be able to apply for settled status after the deadline, through exceptional circumstances applications.”
The Government has pledged £9 million to help vulnerable people such as the homeless, elderly and disabled apply to the scheme and Mr Lewis speaking after the comments said ministers will "allow time" for those with "reasonable grounds for missing the deadline".
He tweeted: "My words are somewhat taken out of context. EU citizens have till at least Dec 2020 and there’s plenty of help available to apply. We’ve now had two million applications and we’ve always said we’ll allow time for those with reasonable grounds for missing the deadline."
A Home Office spokesperson added: “EU citizens are our friends, family and neighbours and we want them to stay.
“The EU Settlement Scheme is a free and easy way for EU citizens to get the UK immigration status they need.
“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’ve always been clear that where they have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they’ll be given a further opportunity to apply.”