Wendy Chamberlain, MP for North East Fife and the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip and spokesperson for Scotland, Wales and DWP, is calling for all EU citizens and their family members who have not yet done so to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Ms Chamberlain has written this week to the Home Secretary to ask her to lift the deadline for applying to the Scheme and prevent the risk of thousands of people becoming subject to the hostile environment. She has also highlighted a number of concerns in the functioning of the scheme in its final weeks including errors on the phone app, problems with accessing paper applications, and no replies on the EU Settlement Scheme Resolution Centre helpline.
Ms Chamberlain said:
“We know that programmes like the EU Settlement Scheme never manage to reach 100% of the people they need to. Even if 1% of EU citizens living in the UK are missed, this means tens of thousands will become subject to the hostile environment overnight.
“Meanwhile even those who know about the scheme are facing barriers to applying. I have heard from my constituents about problems with the application process which urgently need remedying if they are supposed to meet this deadline. This is why I have written to the Home Secretary on their behalf, and on behalf of all EU citizens still struggling to apply. Whilst the only way to prevent another immigration scandal is to lift the deadline entirely, the Home Office can and must make their own processes work at this vital moment.
“The deadline to apply to the scheme at the end of this month is approaching rapidly. If you - or anyone you know - needs to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, please do so now. Anyone who is facing difficulties doing so should seek support to avoid missing the deadline.
"The Home Office’s position on the insistence of a 30 June deadline is indefensible.
“EU citizens who have got the right to (pre-) Settled Status and were promised in 2016 that nothing would change for them, are now finding themselves in an impossible situation. Many have applied but have not received a decision, many have been unable to apply due to embassies closing during lockdown and therefore not being able to renew passports needed for their application and others have not been able to get the help they need to apply because the organisations employed by the Government were unable to reach out to and help the most vulnerable EU citizens during lockdown.
“These people are not legally protected while their case is being processed – which can be months during which they are not seen as legal residents and are liable for healthcare costs, cannot change jobs, banks or move house. The problems this will cause and the knock-on effect on families and indeed British employers are entirely unnecessary and self-made by the UK Government.
“The Home Office’s own helpline and the organisations they employed are overwhelmed with calls right now and the Home Office has a backlog of over 300,000 applications. This is a disaster waiting to happen, which will be damaging to Britain’s economy and reputation. Surely, we can do better than that!"