EU CITIZENS granted “settled status” to stay in the UK after Brexit should be given physical residency cards to prove their rights, MPs have said.
The Commons Brexit committee warned that the Windrush scandal exposed the “devastating consequences” for migrants and EU nationals should not be forced to rely on online checks.
MPs have called for EU citizens given ‘settled status’ to be given physical residency cards after Brexit[/caption]
Home Office plans to offer EU nationals a digital code to prove their status risk causing confusion, and could result in individuals losing access to housing and jobs, the report said.
It added that the experience of Windrush generation migrants denied benefits and healthcare and even removed from the UK showed the potential for “devastating consequences” for people without the right papers.
Despite the UK and European Commission declaring that the citizens’ rights chapter of Britain’s withdrawal agreement has been finalised, the committee warned that “substantial issues remain unresolved”.
The committee called for urgent clarification from the 27 remaining EU states on the preparations they are making to regularise the status of UK nationals living in their territory, warning that more than one million expats risk being “left in the dark”.
Sajid Javid announced details of the ‘settled status’ scheme in June 2018[/caption]
And they said the UK Government must put pressure on to protect their rights, including ongoing free movement between the 27 countries for UK expats living on the continent.
The report raised particular concern about the Home Office’s plans to issue digital codes to more than three million EU nationals expected to apply for settled status to live and work in the UK.
Under the proposals, individuals would be expected to give the code to a potential employer or landlord, who would then have to input it into a Home Office website in order to access information on their immigration status.
The scheme envisages both the EU national and the landlord or employer having access to electronic devices such as smartphones or tablet computers and being willing to go through the process, said the committee.
Committee chairman Hilary Benn has called on Government officials to make it clear to EU citizens that they can stay[/caption]
“We are concerned that the Home Office is introducing a new system on a large scale, and which relies upon employers, or landlords, understanding and embracing a new way of working,” said the report.
“This might work well for many, but for some the risk of a civil penalty for employing or renting to someone without the correct immigration status, and a lack of understanding of the new system, may deter them from employing or renting to EU citizens, or create difficulties in enabling their status in other circumstances to be confirmed.”
The committee added: “The experience of the Windrush generation shows that, where errors occur, it can lead to devastating consequences for individuals and their families.
“We are also concerned about the potential for fraud and the incentive for individuals to be exploited if they cannot persuade an employer or landlord of their status.”
Home Office plans to offer EU nationals a digital code as evidence of their status[/caption]
Committee chairman Hilary Benn said: “Citizens’ rights was one area of the Brexit negotiations marked as green in the March draft of the withdrawal agreement which implied that it was all sorted. But the evidence we have heard suggests it is far from being finalised.
“In evidence to our inquiry, we heard the hopes and fears of UK citizens in the EU as well as of EU citizens resident here in the UK. These are people who have made their lives in the EU in good faith or came to live and work in the UK, paying taxes, raising families and putting down roots.
“The rights of UK citizens living in the EU27 and of EU nationals in the UK should be based on full reciprocity, but as things stand, both groups are likely to lose some of the rights they had previously. That’s not fair and it’s why we want to see further progress quickly.
“And whatever happens with the negotiations, we urge all governments to make it clear to all EU citizens who have made somewhere else their home that they can stay.”
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A Government spokesperson said: “We have made great progress on citizens rights, securing an agreement which will see EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU be able to continue their lives broadly as now.
“The Home Office has also announced further details about how EU citizens and their families can obtain settled status in the UK. The process will be straightforward and streamlined and we will support applicants to get the right outcome.
“We are working with our European partners to encourage them to confirm their own processes will be in place to provide UK citizens living in the EU with the certainty they need.”