Post Brexit, European Union nationals resident in the UK have had their legal status changed, which requires residents to obtain the right to stay past the mid 2021 deadline. If they do not, they will be subject to the full force of the Hostile Environment. Settled Status, or Pre-Settled Status is similar to Indefinite Leave to Remain and supplants prior statuses.
The good news first: Settled Status is easy to apply for, far easier than other immigration statuses and can be done by smartphone. The bad news is that not everyone has a smartphone and legal advice is often still necessary. There are many things that can go wrong even in a simplified process and seeking advice or assistance has not been easy, given that is a newly created status and the usual support mechanisms have been severely curtailed due to Pandemic related closures. Many people struggle with English, IT, or are young or vulnerable. Lastly, not everyone knows about the change. It may surprise many to discover that even now plenty of people are not aware of the new rules, or the implications. A survey of London care workers from EU27 nations recently showed 1/3 did not know about Settled Status, in 2021!
The statistics published by the Home Office do not always tell the full picture either. Whilst the government rightly trumpets the fact over 5 million people have applied, neither they nor any local authority in the UK really have a clear idea of where people live and what nationality or immigration status they should be. An example being that the Borough of Newham has 120,000 applicants, out of an approximate population of 350,000. Merton and Wandsworth have far less (around 58,640 for Wandsworth & 41,250 for Merton) applicants to date, but is that simply because fewer EU nationals live in our borough? No one is sure. The age demographics also vary wildly, between youth, working age and 65+, which may be reflective of the wider population or it might not be. All these are open questions.
So what can be done?
Unfortunately, at this point, we must be in damage limitation mode. Whilst we can all lobby our MPs to consider tweaking the scheme, or extending it, the real goal now is to make sure European nationals know about their new obligations, their options and where to get help. We must do all we can to avoid another Windrush Hostile Environment.
1) Tell friends, family, colleagues or neighbours about the Scheme.
3) Lobby your council/councillors, MP, government ministers to do more to inform people about the change (writing to all households) and to extend the deadline.
4) Donate time or money to assist.
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