You can help avert disaster! See below for what to say or write to your MP!
It’s been dismissed as scaremongering by the Brexiters, but Brexit really does have the capacity to create a human tragedy that has been described as ‘Windrush on steroids‘. It has already ruined the mental and physical health, lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands who had made the UK their home in good faith. 30 June remains the deadline for application settled status, despite serious concerns that around 130,000 have yet to apply. Many of these are older people who have lived here for decades, perhaps having married a UK citizen or worked here for most of their lives, and assume that the new rules do not apply to them.
The Guardian reported that some 320,000 were still awaiting a decision on their application. Can you imagine the stress this uncertainty is causing? Can you imagine how much that stress is increased as they are bombarded with pointed reminders from an aggressive and hostile Home Office, warning them that their children’s access to education and medical care will be cut, that any benefits they claim will be removed and that they risk losing not only their right to work here, but to continue to live here, too?
These people – friends, colleagues, relatives, workers (many in the NHS, and very much appreciated by most people, bar NHS-head-wannabe Dido Harding) were promised that nothing would change – by Vote Leave and by Boris Johnson. Lies.
We have written about the risks and challenges faced by these unfortunate people, innocent victims of a xenophobic and nasty project. We have written about the appalling treatment of EU citizens at our borders. And now, as the deadline approaches, we are on the brink of a tragedy that will dwarf Windrush. We have drawn attention to those trying desperately to help them through the heartache, stress and trauma: The 3Million and the In Limbo Project, in particular. You can read a recent story from In Limbo in the companion piece: Ulrike’s story. In Limbo gather the testimonies of those caught up in the unfolding tragedy…and not just as settled residents of the UK. Ulrike’s is one of too, too many stories which epitomise the immense cruelty of Brexit and its impact on families.
You can help by writing to your MP asking them to demand the deadline is extended, not least because of Covid-19 and the huge backlog of unprocessed applications. You can also sign this petition for an extension.
This thread from Richard Haviland (many thanks, Richard!) has lots of useful tips on what to say or write to your MP:
In June 2016, just before the EU referendum, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel signed a pledge to EU citizens in the UK. It said that, if the UK decided to leave the EU, they would automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain. Here it is.
Five years later, not a single aspect of this pledge has been honoured. Nobody has been granted automatic leave to remain. Many, even of those who have been granted settled status, have had to go through pain and humiliation to get it. To be allowed to stay in their own home.
And even those with settled status have been refused any physical proof. Some fear leaving the country in case, on return, they are victims of a systems outage at passport control, with no way of showing they have a right to be entering the country.
Some fear inviting relatives to visit them, in case those relatives are subjected to the sort of hostile treatment at the border that we are already seeing – treatment that is rapidly gaining the UK a reputation as a country where foreigners aren’t welcome.
It gets worse. The UK government has set an arbitrary deadline of 30 June for those EU nationals who’ve not yet applied to submit their applications.
As things stand it is inevitable that, unless the Westminster government extends the deadline, a great number of EU nationals who have, through no fault of their own, been unable to apply for settled status, will on 1 July become “illegal”.
This means they will automatically lose the right to live, work or rent accommodation in the UK. Many will be people who’ve lived here for years, working and paying taxes. Some will have British spouses. Some will be children. They are our friends and neighbours and colleagues.
Why not apply, you might ask? It’s not that simple. Although there have been communications campaigns, it is clear there are many who are still unaware even of the need to apply, let alone the deadline.
In particular, there are a number of vulnerable groups who are in real danger of falling through the cracks, including:
Children in care
Elderly people alone or in care, some with dementia or other conditions
People with limited English or digital skills
Long-term residents who believe that their Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residence status is sufficient;
Those married to UK nationals who assume (wrongly) that this guarantees their right to remain
Although the government has given funds to charities to help people with applications, it’s those very people – the vulnerable ones – that the charities have struggled to help face to face during the pandemic. And they now face an enormous backlog. With three weeks to go.
The government has said it will show leniency to people with a valid excuse for delay. But what assurance, after Windrush, and with a dysfunctional Home Office, can that give anyone?
For that matter, the Home Office already has a backlog of 300,000 cases – not all of which will be resolved in time. People who will be left in limbo until they hear back from the Home Office, even if they are eventually granted settled status.
This is an emergency. We have seen the tragedy that has afflicted so many of the Windrush generation, and we have a collective moral duty to ensure the same doesn’t happen again with EU nationals living in this country.
So what can we do? Write to our elected representatives, whatever party they are from and whatever body they sit in. Demand that they see the moral imperative. Don’t let them fob you off. Hold their feet to the fire.
Tell them this is an impending catastrophe and that it will be a stain on all of us if it happens. If they are Conservative, don’t let them tell you about all the people who’ve successfully applied. Insist on knowing what they’re doing for the people who haven’t applied.
Demand an extension to the deadline. Cite Covid. Cite the Home Office backlog. Cite our international reputation. Cite old-fashioned decency and humanity.
Whether or not the deadline is extended, demand to know what your elected representative is doing, personally, to ensure all EU citizens are reached before 30 June. Don’t be fobbed off by statistics and jargon.
Demand physical proof for those with settled status. Point out that if the government can provide a printable QR code for those who have been vaccinated, they can do it for EU nationals.
Pick three friends. The ones who like to say they’re “not political”. Show them this thread. Ask them to do their bit.
Above all, don’t let the government gaslight you. Don’t let them tell you it’s OK. Don’t let them tell you it’s acceptable.
It isn’t OK. It isn’t acceptable. It shames us.