The Government risks a 'second Windrush' scandal unless it makes critical changes to its scheme to allow 3.5 million EU citizens to settle in the UK, according to British Future.
Data from the think tank found as many as 30 per cent of Europeans who live in the UK are at risk of becoming undocumented by either being unaware of the scheme, struggling to operate the system, not realising it applies to them, or unable to provide evidence of residency.
As 21st January, all EU citizens residing in Britain who hold a biometric passport will be able to apply to settle in the UK under the final testing stage of the EU settlement scheme ahead of the public launch on 30th March 2019.
They will have until 30th June 2021 to apply and will be entitled to settlement rights irrespective of a Brexit deal or no deal. The Home Secretary Office expects to be processing 5,600 applicants a day after deploying 1,500 caseworkers and 400 staff at a new resolution centre.
In a private trial of nearly 30,000 applicants between 1st November and 21st December 2018, more than two-thirds of EU citizens working for health service trusts and universities in north-west England were approved in three working days, and 81 per cent were approved within the week. Officials also noted that it refused no applicants.
The Home Office was happy with the outcome of the testing phase and believed it had ‘performed well’. This is in spite of nearly a quarter of people reporting they found the system hard to navigate and almost 10 per cent (2,776 applications) still pending as of mid-January.
British Future warned that if just five per cent of eligible applicants fail to apply or were rejected, that would equate to 175,000 people in the UK having no immigration status.
Despite warnings about the system, the UK government has promised the post-Brexit settlement scheme will be ‘easy and straightforward’ for EU citizens to use.
Immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, commented:
“The report into the second private test phase of the EU settlement scheme shows clearly that we are well on track to deliver a system that will make it easy and straightforward for EU citizens to obtain status once we have left the EU.”
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