On 25th February I attended the Settled Status event organised by Citizens Advice Wandsworth, for local voluntary and community sector organisations, together with my fellow committee member from the European Movement Wandsworth & Merton (EMW), Maciej Psyk.
Held at Tooting URC Church (this was in a world before lockdown!) the aim of the event was to brief interested parties on the complexities of EU citizens applying for settled status in the UK following Brexit. It was very well attended, with organisations from every sector of our community showing just what a vital issue this is in a borough where approximately 11 per cent of our residents hold an EU passport. Today Wandsworth is home to over 40,000 EU nationals and their contribution to local culture, diversity and enterprise is a key component in the success story of our Borough. The largest EU population is Polish, followed by French, Italian, German and Spanish.
EU citizens are important to Wandsworth
In July last year Cllr Govindia, leader of Wandsworth council, wrote to Theresa May stating:
“As the leader of a highly diverse and culturally rich inner London borough I want to impress upon you the significant impact the Brexit negotiations are having upon local communities here. The need to reassure the European Union nationals resident in Wandsworth about their future in the UK is a high priority for me and the Council”.
“European residents make up a significant proportion of our local population and they are a part of our community right across the whole borough. They have enriched and continue to enrich our communities in more ways than I could hope to capture in this letter. They contribute greatly to public services, our vitality and to delivering the huge regeneration of our borough".
I think in the current pandemic crisis it has become only too clear how vital a contribution many EU citizens make.
So back to the Settled Status event. What struck me is just how complicated the application process can be. Whilst undoubtably the system has been designed to work best on a mobile phone and does work easily if you happen to meet the qualifying criteria in a straightforward way, things can get more complicated once you or your partner fall outside the standard norm. It was certainly news to me that if an EU migrant has been living in the UK for years under the Permanent Resident Status scheme this no longer applies after 31st December this year and a new application must be made under the new Settled Status scheme.
There is help
Applications for the EU settlement scheme end on 30.6.21 but for all sorts of reasons it is best completed well in advance as after 31st December 2020 the process becomes more complicated. EMW is alarmed at the negative message being given to our EU citizen residents particularly as many of them are involved in helping in our fight against the pandemic. For this reason we are hosting a Zoom Euro Cafe event on 26th May at 6pm to help answer any queries local EU citizens or other interested parties may have on their Settled Status application process. Members of Wandsworth Citizens Advice will be on hand to provide a short presentation and answer any more specific questions any attendee may have.
Do sign up for the event - “see" you there.