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Sunday, January 12, 2020

EU settlement scheme delays leave people in limbo

The Independent reports that people are being illegally blocked from getting jobs and renting homes in the UK due to lengthy delays in the Home Office’s EU settlement scheme.

Lawyers claim that spouses of Europeans are waiting months for their applications for settled status after Brexit to be decided on, despite the government saying the process should take one to four days – often leaving them with no formal documentation to prove their status.

The paper quotes one case, in which an Iranian woman married to a Swedish man said she had been driven to a state of permanent anxiety after being blocked from opening a bank account and was unable to get a job while she waited months for a response to her EU settlement application.

Experts said there was a lack of knowledge among employers and landlords about the fact that applicants retain their rights to live and work in Britain while their cases are pending, and warned that the issue was being compounded by delays in the scheme:

Christopher Desira, solicitor at the law firm Seraphus and at the European Commission Representation in the UK, said he had seen multiple cases of people being wrongly refused employment and turned away by landlords while they wait for a response on their settlement applications on the basis that they hadn’t yet got settled status.

He told of one case where the non-EU citizen married to an EU national got a job offer, but was told by the employer that he was not able to work until he was granted settled or pre-settled status. It took three months for his application to be concluded, during which he was unable to earn a living.

“People are facing financial issues because of this, and it is often the most disadvantaged people who don’t have the means to get a lawyer to know how to put pressure on the Home Office to work with them to speed up the application process. They are being left in a state of temporary limbo,” said Mr Desira.

“In an ideal world, the employer will understand that freedom of movement applies until the end of this year, but because of all the uncertainty and confusion around Brexit, that employer may not understand any of this. And they don’t want to take the risk, so they insist on asking to see pre-settled status or settled status when they should not do so. Those affected could take them to court, but this is a costly and long-winded process, so most choose to try to find another job.

“The Home Office are educating everyone, but whatever communication they’re doing for this now, it is not enough. We’ve seen multiple cases, and there will be more because we know there is underreporting on this.”

Luke Piper, legal adviser to the3million, which campaigns for the rights of EU citizens in Britain, said he had seen a number of people who had been refused promotions because of their pending applications, but added that while it was “arguably unlawful” for employers to do this, the issue was only likely to grow. He pointed out that the “certificate of application” – which is issued to people once they have applied under the EU settlement scheme and is supposed to prove their right to live, work and study in the UK for six months – was not being recognised by employers.

“In the real world, do you think employers are going to employ someone who essentially has six months to remain in the UK with the potential for a grant of pre-settled status of settled status?” he said.

The paper says that the latest EU settlement scheme figures published by the Home Office showed that 525,200 applicants – more than one in five – were still waiting for an outcome, fuelling fears that a backlog is building up ahead of Brexit.

These delays are impacting on the quality of life of people who have lived and worked in the UK for years, contributing to our economy, as well as causing great anxiety and uncertainty for the individuals concerned and their families.

Is this what we must expect from this government after Brexit is concluded?
Yes. It is what you can expect from the govnt cos they have a majority and can do what they want.
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