I have had many constituents contact me recently about the status of EU nationals in the UK.
I know that many EU nationals in Lewisham Deptford and across the country have endured incredible stress and anxiety over the uncertainty they have faced over the last few years.
As you many know, the Government’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), which allows EU nationals who have been in the UK since before 31 December 2020 to apply for settled status or pre-settled status, will close for applications on 30 June 2021.
As the deadline fast approaches, I believe it is crucial that all those entitled to settled status are assured that they will not lose their rights or be detained if they miss the deadline.
Pressure on an application system with a fixed deadline is just one of the reasons I have long supported a declaratory scheme for protecting the rights of EU nationals in the UK – meaning EU nationals and family members who meet the eligibility criteria would automatically have their rights to continue to live and work in the UK granted. I believe this is the only way to prevent the risk of another Windrush-type scenario with potentially thousands of EU nationals unnecessarily criminalised with devastating consequences long-term.
I also recognise that the lack of physical proof of status is a concern for many who have secured settled or pre-settled status. I agree that this should be provided free of charge and I voted for an amendment to the Government’s Immigration Bill last year to require this. Unfortunately, the amendment was rejected by the Government and removed from the Bill.
Some constituents have raised concerns about the current arrangements for applications to the EUSS for looked-after children and care leavers with the Home Office’s latest figures revealing around a third of identified looked-after children and care leavers eligible to apply to the EUSS are yet to do so.
I believe the current arrangements risk thousands of European children who are currently in or have recently left the care system falling through the gaps, becoming undocumented and left without immigration status. These children and young people have already had a difficult start to life in many cases and, as the state is acting as their legal guardian, I think the best it can do for them is to settle their immigration status.
I believe all looked-after children and care leavers should be provided automatic settled status. This is why the Shadow Home Office team tabled an amendment to the Government’s Immigration Bill last year, which would have legislated for this and removed the requirement on local authorities to make an application to the EUSS on a child’s behalf. Unfortunately, the Government expressed opposition to the amendment and it made no further progress.
I also believe the status granted to looked-after children and care leavers should be full, permanent settled status. This would remove all uncertainty around their immigration status both now and in the years to come.
EU nationals enrich our society and contribute a great deal to our services and industries. Their future here must be secure. This issue remains a priority for me, both now and into the future, and I will continue to monitor the Government’s treatment of EU nationals and their families.
For anyone navigating an application the Mayor of London’s European Londoners Hub, which you can access via this link, may be useful and it also provides information on late applications.