The Home Office is at risk of another immigration policy scandal because of issues with the EU Settlement Scheme, the House of Lords EU Justice Subcommittee has warned in an urgent letter to the Home Secretary.
The scheme, which is now in the process of being rolled out, is intended to secure the continued residence in the UK after Brexit of EU nationals already resident in the UK, many of whom have been here for years if not decades.
Four main concerns are raised by the committee, aloing with a series of technical queries. The principal concerns are:
- Publicity for the scheme has so far been inadequate and ill-judged; vulnerable and harder-to-reach people are at risk of not knowing that they need to apply for settled status, including some long-standing residents.
- The application process is not accessible to all, and there are potential barriers that could deter people from applying, for example the emphasis on online applications. Whilst there is particular concern about those who lack confidence with IT systems, the process can be daunting for other applicants too.
- Individuals who are granted pre-settled or settled status will only be given an electronic code, and not a physical document. Having no physical proof of status will not only disadvantage those without access to online technology, but would leave all EU nationals in limbo in the event of a breakdown of the electronic system.
- There is no systematic scheme to move people from pre-settled status to settled status: Without prompts or a proper system, EU nationals with pre-settled status are at risk of not knowing they need to re-apply, undermining the Government’s aim in creating pre-settled status in the first place.
The EU Justice Subcommittee has asked for a response to these concerns within ten days.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, chair of the subcommittee, commented: "The committee is troubled that the Home Office appears not to have learned the lessons from the Windrush scandal, and is pushing ahead with the EU Settlement Scheme in its current form. If I was in this situation, I would want to have physical proof – just like for a driving licence – for a sense of personal security in case of events such as computer failure."