Home Office Accused Of Risking Another Windrush Scandal Unless They Delay EU Settled Status Deadline
Labour is urging the government to extend the deadline for EU citizens applying to remain in the UK, warning they risk creating "a Windrush-style scandal" with thousands of people falling through the cracks.
Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central and former shadow Brexit minister, will use an Urgent Question on Tuesday afternoon to pressure the Home Office to delay the 30 June deadline for EU Settled Status applications by three months.
“It’s vital that Ministers act now, before it’s too late, and they preside over a Windrush-style scandal," the Labour MP for Sheffield Central said this morning.
"This is the largest ever mass change of immigration status that the country has seen, and we must ensure no one falls out of status because of bureaucracy or Home Office mistakes."
Kevin Foster, the immigration minister, last week said EU citizens living in the UK who apply for Settled Status by tomorrow's deadline, but don't receive a decision from the Home Office by that point, will still have their rights protected.
The government has also said EU citizens who miss tomorrow's deadline will be able to submit a late application if there is "reasonable grounds" for doing so, but has not offered detail on what those exeptions could be.
But there is widespread concern that with the department grappling with a major backlog in cases — The Guardian said it had 400,000 to handle last week and is receiving up to 12,000 new applications are every day — there could still be a crisis of thousands of EU citizens losing rights overnight, with applications submitted late in the process expected to take months to work through.
Anxious EU citizens have recently reported struggling to get through to the Home Office helpline due to sheer volume of calls being received by the department from people trying to secure their status.
The government has been accused of failing to effectively publicise the Settled Status scheme.
A new survey by the British Landlords Association found that just one in three landlords were aware of the scheme and what it meant to EU citizens trying to access housing in the UK.
There is concern this might result in landlords wrongly turning away EU citizens who want to rent property because their Settled Status applications are still pending.
Labour is also calling on the government to change its policy so EU citizens are provided with physical proof of their status, not just electronic certification, to further ensure they don't encounter ostacles to employment, housing and health care.
"Ministers should also now finally admit that physical proof of status is needed, to make it easier for EU citizens to navigate the many instances in which they will need to evidence their status," Blomfield said.
He also warned that the Home Office too needed extra time to get on top of the applications, pointing to glitches in the system which have led to people being registered under the wrong name.
"Government must extend the EUSS deadline, and use the time to fix their mistakes, reach out to those who haven’t yet applied, and ensure no one becomes an undocumented migrant overnight through no fault of their own".
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe