Brexit: Tens of thousands of Europeans face benefits axe as settled status deadline looms
UK still has ‘lots of issues’ with EU says Penny Mourdant
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On June 30, applications for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) close with anyone who doesn’t apply becoming unlawfully present and at risk of losing access to employment and benefits. Ministers have been told around 130,000 European claimants have yet to apply, after they were urged to extend the deadline for applications.
Leaked estimates from the Government say one in six EU citizens who claim benefits have not applied for settled status in the UK.
Based on data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), officials believe there are close to 820,000 Europeans living in Britain.
Of the suggested 130,000 who have yet to apply, more than 90,000, or around 70 percent, receive universal credit payments.
A Government source insists however the number of people still to apply has fallen to about 70,000.
Settled status is given to those who have been living in the UK for a continuous five-year period.
Under the EUSS, those who were living in the UK before Brexit but had been here for less than five years are given pre-settled status, but will subsequently become eligible for settled status if they stay.
Speaking to The Times, who reported the figures, a minister said EU citizens losing access to benefits could inflame tensions with the bloc.
They said: “The Home Office needs to get a grip of this, and quick, otherwise we could have a total disaster on our hands.”
A Government spokeswoman stated it was “working hard” to identify claimants who needed to apply.
Maike Bohn, co-founder of campaign group for European citizens in the UK the3million, told the publication the numbers are “shocking”.
She added: “We are asking the Government to make a few simple legislative tweaks so that every citizen who is entitled to apply for status under the EUSS is fully protected…
“The consequence of not addressing these issues are enormous, with hundreds of thousands of lives ruined.”
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow Home Secretary, also warned failure to protect EU citizens could see a repeat of the Windrush scandal.
He told the outlet: “These are deeply worrying revelations and show that the Government could be risking leaving huge numbers of people in a desperate situation.
“Ministers made promises that people would have support they needed to not lose out on citizenship.
“Now there is a real risk their incompetence could result in a repeat of some of the terrible elements of the Windrush scandal.”
A Home Office spokesperson said it was “keen to ensure anyone in receipt of benefits is given every opportunity to apply to the EU settlement scheme”.
They urged everyone to apply, using the app available on Android or iPhone, online or via post.
It added: “Anyone who has applied to the scheme by the 30 June deadline will have their rights protected until their application is decided.
“In line with the withdrawal agreement, those who have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline will be able to make a late application.”
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