EU citizens living in the United Kingdom are being threatened with deportation despite having applied correctly for settled status, the Observer reports.
Under the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU, which sets out the terms of relations after Brexit, EU citizens are entitled to apply for settled status to allow them to continue to live and work in the UK.
The deadline to apply was 30 June, but more than a month later, the backlog of applications has still not been cleared, and those whose applications remain in administrative limbo face the possibility of being deported and having to reapply for permission to return – but this time on different terms.
As we reported in the early days of July, 5.6 million applications had been received for settled or pre-settled status, allowing applicants to remain in the UK, and to have access to the National Health Service, to work, rent, bank, study and retire. As the deadline approached, another 50,000 people were rushing to apply.
Now, one month later, people who applied correctly are being issued with removal notices, despite repeated promises from the British government that anyone who had applied would continue to enjoy the same rights as before the deadline until their case was dealt with.
The charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) wrote at the end of July to the head of immigration enforcement to express concern at the Home Office’s failure to acknowledge receipt of settled status applications in cases where it wants to deport EU citizens.
The letter warned that unless something was done by the end of this week, BID would file an official complaint with the European Commission accusing the UK of being in breach of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Pierre Makhlouf, legal director of BID, told The Observer: “It seems that the Home Office has pre-decided the fate of certain EU nationals, perhaps believing that they are easy to remove. But in its drive to deport more people, it is side-stepping legal requirements and procedures.
“Whether this is due to administrative or wilful neglect may be unclear, but by ignoring the legal steps that EU nationals have undertaken to assert their rights, the UK is in breach of its duties under the Withdrawal Agreement.”
In Belgium, meanwhile, the government has created a new type of residency permit for UK citizens already resident here, who either have been or will be contacted by their local authority to make a formal application for the M-card, which conveys all of the rights they enjoyed while the UK was still an EU member state.