The Minister of State for Immigration Brandon Lewis’ claim that the EU Settlement Scheme is working is disingenuous.


First published in September 2019.


The Government ‘celebrating’ the fact that 1.5m EU/EEA citzens have applied for Settled or Pre-Settled Status. A large sounding number but overall meaningless in the context of issues continously raised by us, MPs and MEPs.

Yes, August has seen a spike in applications – certainly partly driven by the panic caused by the now-reversed statement by Priti Patel that Freedom of Movement would end on October 31 in case of a no-deal Brexit.


We have also seen an increase of applications concluded per working day in August. Looking at the two months with high volume of applications (April/August) we can now conclude that Home Office processing capacity stands at about 200k per month.


Which leads us to the backlog of unprocessed applications. After dropping to 89k in low application month of July, it has rocketed to the highest level yet of 189k applications unprocessed.


The Home Office proudly announced that there has been only one refusal so far. With many anxious EU/EEA citizens contacting us daily waiting for granting of status for weeks and some for months, we are highly concerned how many refusals are buried in the backlog.

Another worrying trend is the continously high number of EU/EEA Citizens receiving the lesser Pre-Settled Status rather than full Settled Status. This has now plateaued at 42-43%.


The Migration Observatory has analysed ONS data and established that around 69% of EU citizens should qualify for the full Settled-Status. Meaning only 31% should receive the lesser Pre-Settled Status.

The Migration Observatory

We do not know whether this large discrepancy of EU/EEA citzens receiving the lesser Pre-Settled Status rather than the full Settled Status is driven by application patterns. BUT worryingly NEITHER does the Home Office!

the3million

At no point during the EU settlement scheme application process does the Home Office enquire when the EU/EEA citizens moved permanently to the UK. Thus, the Home Office has no way to measure expected status vs actual status granted.

To claim that there was only one refusal is wrong when press coverage over the last weeks has shown that EU citizens have unwittingly ended up with Pre-Settled Status when they were entitled to Settled Status.

Quite clearly a rufusal of the status they are entitled to.

Coming back to the impressive sounding number of 1.5m applications. It is just a number. The Home Office doesn’t know how many EU/EEA citizens it has to process by the end of the deadline. At the end of that deadline it will not know how many citizens it failed to process.

Not having Settled or Pre-Settled Status at the end of the application period means that those EU/EEA citzens will be stripped of a lawful immigration status. Falling straight into the Hostile Environment facing immigration enforcement.

This is a far cry from the Prime Minister’s referendum promise of automatic immigration status for EU/EEA citizens and the “unequivocal guarantee” he has given only weeks ago.

Vote Leave, 2016.

So, for the Minister of State for Immigration at the Home Office Brandon Lewis to claim over the last two weeks that the EU Settlement Scheme is working is disingenuous. Without quality controls and benchmarks in place he simply does not know.

To fix these problems the Government must:

1. Make the status of all EU citizens automatic by writing it into law now;
2. Change the scheme from application to registration;
3. Build in quality controls in the process and publish those statistics.



 

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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 17 September 2019, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Screenshot from a video by the Estonian Foreign Ministry.)



     

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the3million is the largest group of EU citizens in the UK, with a team of 50-ish active volunteers working on advocacy, policy, legal, media, social media, grassroots and events.