The promise was an automatic guarantee of rights. Instead, we have an ‘unsettling status’.


First published in January 2020.


In less than two weeks’ time, the UK will leave the EU, having ratified the Withdrawal Agreement setting out our citizens’ rights in an international treaty.

While we always said the treaty would fall short of matching the rights we had as EU citizens living in another member state, I want to reassure you that the treaty will provide a legal safety net. The UK Government cannot erode our rights defined in the Withdrawal Agreement, regardless of whether a trade deal is agreed or not later this year.

Having said that, the UK Government has done very little to make us feel welcome or safe since the referendum and the largest survey of EU citizens to date, with over 3,000 respondents, has revealed the serious negative impacts of the settled status Scheme on EU / EEA / Swiss citizens and their family members in the UK.

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The data collected identifies key concerns of those having to apply for settled status, ranging from:

Discrimination;

Loss of identity;

Concerns over the lack of transparency and visibility;

Breakdown of trust in the government’s willingness and ability to deliver a secure status for the future.


Top on the list of worries:

89% of respondents say they are not happy with digital status and fear being discriminated against at work, at the border or trying to rent a property, for example.

10.9 % of respondents said that they were already being asked about settled status by landlords, banks, and councils even though proof of the new immigration status is not required before 2021.

One person said: “I’m working in the public sector and somebody from HR said that they are unable to form my permanent contract as my future is uncertain in the UK. They asked me to prove that I have applied for settled status in the UK.”

The report finds that the Home Office has failed to properly inform and reassure both those who have applied and those who have not yet done so. Even those who have already been granted settled status feel less secure, less integrated in the UK.

A worrying 7% of those respondents who haven’t yet applied to the scheme think they do not need to even though they have no pre-existing document or status.


Download and read the full report here.

Professor Tanja Bueltmann, from Northumbria University, who conducted and analysed the Settled Status Survey, says:

“While the Settled Status Survey shows that the application process can be quick and straightforward for many, settled status was never going to be about what works for some, but what works for everyone.

After all, the promise was an automatic guarantee of rights. Instead of that, as the Survey documents without question, we have an ‘unsettling status’. This extends beyond the application process, revealing an erosion of trust; an erosion of well-being; and an erosion of the sense of belonging among Survey respondents.

The government has a duty to finally give EU/EEA and Swiss citizens certainty. Hollow words are not enough.”


Maike Bohn, the co-founder of the3million, says:

“This report shows that the UK government has not earned the trust of EU citizens, having spent the last three years gas-lighting our anxieties with mixed messages. Are we the much-quoted ‘neighbours, colleagues, friends’ or are we the ‘queue jumpers, benefits scroungers, unwelcome guests, draining the NHS’?

The government needs to step up local outreach and support, both to EU/EEA and Swiss citizens but also to employers, landlords and others who will be forced to check the immigration status of these citizens in order to avoid huge fines.

We also have a clear message to Prime Minister Johnson: he needs to represent all residents of the UK and start rebuilding trust through actions, not by blowing hot and cold on EU citizens.”

Last week alone showed how the Government is mismanaging the situation: ministers such as Brandon Lewis only see EU citizens as statistics. While he is gloating about the number of settled status applicants, he totally fails to appreciate the human cost of Brexit on people who have made the UK their home, yet are effectively being told by the Government that they are second class citizens.

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It could be very different, and indeed it is north of the border in Scotland where the Scottish Government is genuinely welcoming us with open arms without second thoughts.

Finally, I am asked repeatedly what should EU citizens do now?

In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt it will not be possible to live a normal life in the UK in the future without a valid residence status, whether it is (pre) settled status, indefinite leave to remain or being a dual national.

While I hear some people are shouting loudly they will not comply in a sort of act of resistance, I encourage everyone to make sure they don’t put themselves or their family at risk. The deadline is 31 December 2020, with a further 6 month grace period for those who missed the boat.

After that, the Hostile Environment will apply, impacting your ability to work, rent or access the NHS.🔷


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Check their Voting Record:

🗳️ Brandon Lewis




 

Did you know the3million is the leading non-profit organisation of EU citizens in the UK? If you can help their campaign to continue, you can:


 



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[This piece was originally published on the3million newsletter and re-published in PMP Magazine on 20 January 2020, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Experiences and impact of the EU settlement scheme.)