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Home Affairs Committee warns EU Settlement Scheme risks repeat of Windrush scandal

Summary:
Report finds too many people could be missed out under current plans, calls for rights to enshrined in law
Date of Publication:
03 June 2019

Home Affairs Committee warns EU Settlement Scheme risks repeat of Windrush scandal

03 June 2019
EIN

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee said in a report released last week that the Government is risking a repeat of the Windrush scandal with the EU Settlement Scheme.

You can read the 66-page report here.

Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, explained: "The Government's current plans for the EU Settlement Scheme show they are not learning the lessons from the Windrush scandal. The problems faced by the Windrush generation showed how easily individuals can fall through gaps in the system through no fault of their own and how easily lives can be destroyed if the Government gets this wrong.

"Too many people could be missed out under the current plans for the Settlement Scheme arrangements – including children or the elderly who have lived here many years. The Government should enshrine people's rights in law so they are protected rather than putting them at risk from problems with the bureaucratic process."

While the Government has chosen to implement a system which requires people to apply for settled status on the basis of evidence, the Home Affairs Committee says in the report it believes eligible EU citizens should have their rights automatically protected and their entitlement to remain in the UK should be enshrined in law.

The report warns: "There are notable gaps in the Government's immigration proposals. The determination of the Government to end free movement on the date of departure if the UK leaves the EU without a deal could lead to a situation where long-term EU residents of the UK are, in the period between exit and the closure of the Settlement Scheme, disadvantaged and discriminated against in areas such as employment or housing if they are not able to evidence their entitlement to remain."

The Home Affairs Committee strongly calls on the Government to protect the rights of EU citizens in law, stating: "We call on the Government to confirm in primary legislation the rights of EEA nationals who are resident in the UK at the time of its exit from the EU. These rights include the right to remain in the UK, and to retain the associated rights they have thus far been afforded. No-one should be left without rights because they have not completed the scheme. Individuals need certainty and should not be left reliant on the goodwill of a future Government to uphold non-statutory rights. Individuals should, however, be required to apply to the Settlement Scheme for documents to evidence their rights."

The report continues: "We recommend that the Government amend the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill so as to provide for the automatic granting of settled or pre-settled status in the UK to anyone who would, under current Government proposals, be entitled to that status under the EU Settlement Scheme on the day on which the UK ceases to be a member of the European Union. The Settlement Scheme would function as currently proposed by the Government for people who arrive in the UK after this date."

The Committee is also concerned that technical issues have "blighted" the pilot and initial phases of the Settlement Scheme's application process, with applicants struggling to navigate the online system without assistance from the Home Office.

"[M]any applicants will not feel comfortable or confident in using unfamiliar technology, especially for something so important. Given that both we and other Committees have drawn attention to concerns around the technical aspects of the Scheme, it is extremely disappointing that so many EU citizens experienced difficulties when the Scheme was launched. The Settlement Scheme has been open in private beta form since August 2018; this should have given ample time for sufficient technological systems to be devised and implemented," the report states.

BBC News reported that the Home Office said it disagreed with the Committee's assessment of the scheme. A spokesman said the scheme was "performing well with more than 600,000 applications received by the end of April and hundreds of thousands of people already being granted status".