Ahead of International Migrants Day (18 December), the lives of vast numbers of EU nationals in the UK are still in turmoil thanks to the actions, and inaction, of the Johnson/Vote Leave government. Richard Haviland explains their predicament.
The Home Office likes to trumpet the success of its EU settlement scheme and say that over 5 million applications have been successfully processed. In isolation, that sounds impressive.
But this Government is fond of citing big numbers that tell you little if not set in context.
You may have seen reports that the Independent Monitoring Authority (set up to protect the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens in the UK), has launched a lawsuit against the Home Office for breaching the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement for those people granted pre-settled status.
But, even without that, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have submitted applications but are yet to receive any form of status at all from the Home Office.
Many have been waiting for a very long time. Many are in limbo as they wait for a painfully slow, hostile and uncommunicative Home Office to give them the green light they need to be able to get on with their lives. All of them came here legally under freedom of movement.
Don’t forget that in 2016 Boris Johnson and Priti Patel made a promise to all EU nationals then resident in the UK that they would automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain. They lied.
There’s the person who lost their job because, a full month after submitting an application, they had yet to receive so much as an acknowledgement from the Home Office, and their employer wouldn’t wait any longer. Others have been waiting for nearly two years.
There’s the man with pre-settled status who has to live overseas while he waits in hope for his baby to be granted the same status. Each day his fears grow that spending so long out of the UK will be used against him when he comes to apply for permanent settled status.
There are the thousands of people who cannot rent accommodation, find a job, or access Universal Credit. Hardly surprising that, according to Crisis, EU citizens in the UK are nearly three times more likely to experience homelessness than the general adult population.
Read the report and you will find more of these stories. The message is stark. Bureaucratic delays have an impact on people’s lives, often to devastating effect.
It’s no good the Home Office boasting about its amazing scheme if that scheme is so pitifully resourced.
It’s no good the Home Office saying it has a helpline if that helpline doesn’t help people.
It’s no good the Home Office saying it expects to process applications within a month if it expects nothing of the sort.
It’s no good the Home Office having a website with estimated processing times if that website is never updated.
The report by @the3million makes several recommendations to the Home Office. They include more resources, greater transparency and accessibility, and legislation and guidance to ensure the rights of citizens with pending applications. They are all eminently sensible.
Will the Government listen and take action? Or will it, as it so often does, fob us all off with empty boasts about how well it is performing?
This may not be a “sexy” subject. But it’s an important one. It’s about how, as a country, we treat people. It’s about whether we care, or whether we’d rather just look away.
So let’s write to our MPs and demand they hold ministers to account. Let’s keep this issue alive. Let’s show that we do care and are better than this.