Jane Stevenson explains how you can help prevent vulnerable EU citizens losing their rights at the end of June by putting pressure on your MP.
At midnight, on Wednesday 30 June, over 100,000 EU citizens in the UK will become illegal citizens in their own homes because they have not yet applied for settled status.
Many groups have been calling for the settled status application deadline to be extended. Not least, because the pandemic has disrupted outreach to the people who need it most.
The application is a digital one and requires a smart phone, so many older people will not have the facility to complete it. And many groups of people are unaware they need to apply. These include parents of EU citizen children, people who came here years ago and have a permanent residence card, and those that look after EU citizen children in care. These are the most vulnerable groups of EU citizens in our country.
Clearly, outreach to these groups has been impacted by the pandemic. Yet despite this, no extension has been granted. Even though the Home Office itself needs an extension as it has a backlog of 400,000 applications.
Are we really going to sit back and watch this happen?
I put a tweet out about the rising cost of steel and the potential impact on our small business. I also put out a tweet encouraging people to write or call their MP about the looming settled status crisis. Which one do you think got the most attention?
I am wondering why this is. Where is the outcry, other than from groups directly involved?
Where are the MPs and the lords? If the human rights campaigner Lord Tony Greaves were still alive, he would surely be making a noise today. Where are the celebrities? Some grassroots campaigners have been working hard but there is no wave of rage and solidarity. There needs to be – and that is something every one of us can help create.
Last week I rang my MP to explain the situation and ask them to press for an extension. It took me five minutes. And I had a vision of thousands of us doing this. Not emailing but phoning, so the phones in MPs offices are hot. We could damn well irritate them to the point of a U-turn!
My phone call began with an assistant to my MP(Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall) asking whether I was an EU citizen. She seemed surprised that a non-EU citizen would make a such a call.
And here is the written response I got later from Mrs Murray. It did not surprise me, as I have had replies like this for years.
But this time I felt rage. Not just anger at once again being given the brush-off, but rage for all those people who will become illegal citizens overnight. Rage for all the volunteers and charity workers who have worked so hard for years to assist EU citizens. And rage that this was being done in my name. You can read my response to Mrs Murray here.
The world is looking at us. On 1 July, democracies in Europe and around the world will watch the UK cross a very dark line indeed if no extension is given. I feel this like a hand squeezing my heart, and I cannot be silent about this.
EU citizens who are not in the vulnerable category, and not directly impacted by this deadline, are still affected. They are watching their UK friends stay silent and they have lived with that silence for years.
In June 2016, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel all signed a pledge to EU citizens in the UK promising that if Brexit took place they would automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain. This unambiguous promise is now being broken in the most shameful way.
So we must speak out. For the vulnerable EU citizens. For all EU citizens who have been emotionally wounded by the silence of their friends and neighbours. And for the sake of our own integrity.
Our speaking out needs to be visible and concentrated. We need to create a wave.
A few years ago, I started the Yellow Rose initiative. This was a call-out to all people who share similar values to stand in solidarity and send messages of friendship to EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, symbolised by yellow roses. Phoning your MP about the settled status crisis, calling for an extension to the deadline, and then letting others know about it on social media is also an act of friendship.
So please call your MP on Monday morning. Post that you have done this on social media, and use the hashtag #DitchTheDeadline.
A line in the sand has been drawn by forces beyond our control. But we still have power to make a mark on the right side of it.
When you contact your MP, these resources may be useful:
Richard Haviland’s thread on how the promise to EU citizens is being broken.
Letter in The Times from Elena Remigi, founder of In Limbo.
Professor Tanja Bueltmann’s thread setting out the shocking facts about the situation faced by many EU citizens.