It’s estimated that around 3.6 million EU citizens live in the UK. And as part of the UK’s Brexit preparations, it has set up a settlement scheme allowing EU nationals to remain in the UK. However, according to Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis, those who do not apply for settled status in time will be deported from the UK.
Currently, this means they have until the end of 2020 to register for settled status if no deal is made, and until June 2021 if an agreement is reached. So far, according to British government figures, over 1.3 million have applied to the settlement scheme.
In the interview, Brandon Lewis said: “If EU citizens have not registered by then and are not adequately justified, the applicable immigration rules will apply.”. He added that those who didn’t apply in time would be “liable to prosecution for illegal residence and subject to enforcement, detention and deportation measures.”
These comments have been criticised by the campaign group The3Million. The group said: “We have pressed the government for years on what happens to those who do not have a status in 2021. Today, after much wait, it is confirmed that hundreds and thousands of people will be punished with the threat of removal from their home.”
“This is no way to treat people, let alone what was promised. Those people who miss the tight deadline will face the full force of the hostile environment. That is the grim reality of the UK government’s position, no matter how many times they repeat the phrase: EU citizens and their families are our friends, neighbours and colleagues and we want them to stay.’”
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott added that “threats by ministers that EU nationals could be deported are a complete breach of all the assurances that the government has made. This will be deeply troubling to people who have come here in good faith and who contribute so much to our society.”
However, Lewis responded on Twitter that his “words are somewhat taken out of context. EU citizens have until at least Dec(ember) 2020 and there’s plenty of help available to apply,”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “EU citizens are our friends, family and neighbours and we want them to stay. The EU settlement scheme is a free and easy way for EU citizens to get the UK immigration status they need.”
“We have received 2m applications and are looking for reasons to grant status, not refuse, and EU citizens have until at least December 2020 to apply. We’ve always been clear that where they have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they’ll be given a further opportunity to apply.”
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