Warnings of a new Windrush scandal as EU settlement scheme applications drop

PUBLISHED: 13:28 17 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:28 17 December 2019

A woman holds an European flag outside the European Parliament. Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images.

A woman holds an European flag outside the European Parliament. Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images.

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Opponents of the government have warned it is ‘sleepwalking into another Windrush scandal’ after the number of EU citizens applying to live and work in the UK after Brexit fell.

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The Home Office said it received 142,300 applications for the scheme in November, compared to more than half a million submitted in the previous month.

This takes the total number received by the end of November to almost 2.6 million (2,592,800).

Overall, the number of applications finalised in that time was more than 2.2 million (2,230,900).

Of these, 59% were granted permanent leave to remain in the country, called settled status, and 41% were granted pre-settled status - which means they have temporary leave to remain and would need to apply again for permanent permission at a later date.

Five applications were refused on "suitability grounds", a Home Office report published on Tuesday said.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: "Too many EU nationals are deeply anxious about their right to stay. Many of them fill vital roles in our health service and our schools. It's disgraceful for the Conservative government to leave them in legal limbo like this.

"Boris Johnson continues to break his promise to automatically guarantee the rights of EU citizens in law. Thousands of EU citizens are set to miss out on Settled Status and be left vulnerable to the Tories' Hostile Environment.

"The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for EU citizens by opposing Brexit. We will fight to guarantee their rights to live and work in the UK."

Sadiq Khan said millions of EU citizens living in the UK were "once again facing increased uncertainty about their future", adding that it was "completely unacceptable" that nearly a million were yet to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.

He said: "While the government is putting all of its focus on Brexit, this is the biggest change in rights and immigration status in our country for a generation.

"The government are sleepwalking into another Windrush scandal and we can't allow that to happen.

"We have more than one million EU citizens living in London who belong in this city, are part of what makes it so special, and rightly call it home."

He said the government must "urgently step up their efforts and back their warm words with action to provide the security our European Londoners deserve".

Campaign group the 3million said it was "very concerned" at the rising numbers of EU citizens being granted temporary rather than permanent leave to remain.

It added: "This is a timebomb, as these EU citizens will need to apply again to stay in their own home, and there is no certainty they can be successful at it when they do."

The Home Office said pre-settled status was typically granted to people who have lived in the country for five years and insisted applicants had been first offered the chance to prove they qualified for settled status.

Security minister Brandon Lewis said: "EU citizens have made an enormous contribution to the UK and we want them to stay.

"2.6 million applications to the EU Settlement Scheme have already been submitted and I encourage people to keep applying. It's free and there is plenty of support available.

"We are leaving the EU on January 31 2020, but people have until at least December 31 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme."

In October he indicated that EU citizens could be deported if they did not apply by the deadline.

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