The Home Office’s intention to simplify the procedure for EU citizens to document themselves after Brexit is cautiously welcomed, as more clarity and legal guarantees are still needed to reassure them.
Last week, the British Government announced the rules for settled status in a flurry of communications, including a 55-page statement of intent 📋.
the3million cautiously welcomed the Home Office’s intention to simplify the procedure for EU citizens to document themselves after Brexit, but we also called for more clarity and firm guarantees.
The fact that it has taken two years to come up with “three simple steps” to register EU citizens shows you that there is nothing easy or simple about this.
This is how the day unravelled:
The Home Office first gathered the press in the morning to explain the application would be a simple 3-step process, before immigration minister Caroline Nokes claimed it ‘guarantees the rights of EU citizens living in the UK’.
The Government also uploaded a new video on their social media accounts:
The Home Secretary Sanjit Javid then wrote to those who have subscribed to the Home Office newsletter saying he was taking immense pride that so many EU citizens (like us) have made their home here.
While there is no doubt the proposed application procedure for settled status is a significant improvement from the Permanent Residence 85-page application procedure, the Home Office seems to have failed to convince EU citizens of its merit.
Based on a current live poll we are running, 9 in 10 EU citizens do not feel reassured by the statement. You can still take part.
You can also vote on Facebook:
It’s hardly surprising, considering that in the last two years, we have been played as bargaining chips in the negotiations by the very same Government or being called names by politicians, tabloids and newspapers editors while being targeted in the street with verbal and physical violence in an unprecedented manner.
It will take a lot more than one ministerial statement to restore the lost trust in British institutions.
What this poll shows is that it’s not only about the system or the procedure. It’s about being treated like human beings and having our individuality as European citizens living in another member state respected, irrespective of the UK leaving the EU.
Considering the above, a gesture of goodwill such as scrapping the £65 fee would send the right message, since we are already funding the Home Office through our taxes.
We want more clarity.
There are still many fundamental questions to be answered:
What will happen to people who don’t have the right documents or don’t know they have to apply for settled status?
Is the government ready to invest tens of millions in raising awareness to ensure all EU citizens apply?
How will the Home Office manage demand?
What if the 3-step process fails?
See journalist Robert Peston’s tweet about the difficulty to register his identity on the .gov portal:
Great that @sajidjavid plans simple online scheme to register EU nationals so they can stay here. Good luck Saj: for months I’ve tried to register my identity with https://t.co/w3qqSRDupi to access services & attached is just one of many fails. & I have UK passport. pic.twitter.com/t15HS6sHlH— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 21, 2018
How will the Home Office manage the backlog if delays happen due to technologic issues?
What about human errors, knowing the current error rate for immigration application is 10%?
How will they manage the inevitable surge of applications towards the end of the application period?
In April, we issued 150 unsettling questions to the Home Office, and we will review these questions following the statement.
There is simply so much at stake: if we get rejected or miss the deadline, our bank accounts could get frozen, we would lose the right to work or rent, and we would no longer be able to access healthcare.
It is a vast project to give a status to 3.6 million people, and the most vulnerable EU citizens will need support in more ways than accessing an app, calling a helpline or attending advice sessions at their local library.
Some EU citizens might not be able to produce the right documents - for example, teenagers who have never paid taxes or used the NHS, or pensioners or students. Children seem particularly vulnerable, as they are entirely dependent on their parents making a paid application for them within the deadline.
We need assurances that all vulnerable EU citizens will be safe, regardless of their personal situation.
We also need firm legal guarantees.
Intentions and promises are not good enough at this stage. As put brilliantly by Maike, “After two years of being left in limbo, we don’t take things on trust... we want legally binding guarantees.”
The good news it is within the Government’s reach to do so.
By agreeing to our proposal to set the settled status rules in an additional protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement.
Unfortunately, the Government confirmed yesterday it is currently planning to use secondary legislation to implement settled status.
Secondary legislation offers little guarantee because it is not debated in Parliament, and one piece of secondary legislation can be replaced by another piece of secondary legislation with little scrutiny. It is a bit like Trump’s executive orders in the States.
Did you know?
Since 2012, the Home Office has changed the rules of immigration 58 times using secondary legislation.
What guarantee do EU citizens in the UK have if the settled status rules are based on secondary legislation?
Three steps now, ten steps tomorrow?
We need this to be enshrined in law, not just in Home Office regulations and an international protocol is how we can benefit from maximum constitutional protection.
On Thursday, we briefly met the Home Secretary Sanjit Javid in the corridors of Westminster and he agreed to meet us very soon. We will make the point that he cannot guarantee what the next Home Secretary will do once he’s gone...
Last but not least, our legal challenge to the immigration data exemption (Data Protection Act 2018) is moving towards its next phase.
Once again, this is a crucial piece of the jigsaw.
How can we feel confident our applications to settled status will be treated fairly if the Government reserves the right to withhold information about us, making it impossible to make a meaningful appeal in case of rejection or refusal?
Our crowdfunding campaign continues, and we are getting closer to start a judicial review.
The process is likely to last between 6 to 9 months, and we are confident it will result in the exemption being nullified by the judges.
It has been another rollercoaster of a week, and I hope you are managing well. These hard times can be challenging on a psychological or personal level, so do talk to your friends and family and seek help if you need to.
To be continued...🔷
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(This piece was originally published on the3million newsletter.)