EU citizen numbers in UK vastly underestimated

Almost two million more EU citizens have registered to remain in the UK than the government originally estimated were in the country, according to latest data.

When the government first unveiled the EU Settlement Scheme, which offers permanent, post-Brexit residence and benefits to European nationals who have lived in the country for five years or more, it was estimated between 3.1-3.4 million people would be eligible.But latest government data reveal that, by the end of last month, 5.18 million EU, EEA and Swiss nationals had applied to register under the scheme. More than 4.6 million applicants had been approved and about 45,000 rejected.An investigation by The Times has shown that in many parts of the country there were many more EU citizens than official estimates suggested. The most extreme example was in Arun, West Sussex, where the estimate was 2,000 but where applications under the scheme have turned out to be almost six times greater.Areas such as Wolverhampton, Redditch, East Cambridgeshire and Hounslow had between 2.7 and 3.04 times more EU nationals than believed.But the data also showed the extent to which the European migrant population was concentrated in London, with 1.6 million of successful applicants under the scheme living in the capital."The analysis lays bare the extent to which Britain has underestimated the number of EU citizens in the country," said The Times."Immigration experts said that the figures exposed how little the government knew regarding how many EU citizens risk losing their rights to stay if they fail to apply by the (end of) June deadline."Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, has pointed out that the figures indicate that, even if only two per cent of EU nationals failed to register under the scheme, that would still represent 100,000 people.
However, an attempt by campaigners to force the government to extend the June 30 deadline was rejected last week by the High Court in Kondon.The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) had brought the case against the Home Office because of fears that those who failed to apply under the scheme could face “devastating” consequences, including detention and removal from the UK.“On July 1, anyone who has yet to apply, or apply successfully, will be left without immigration status and exposed to the consequences of the hostile environment; at risk of losing their jobs, homes, access to benefits, and healthcare, driving licences, detention, criminalisation and removal – a second Windrush, but on a much bigger scale,” Paul Bowen QC for the JCWI told the court.He argued that Home Secretary Priti Patel had failed to collect enough data to ensure adequate action was being taken to encourage vulnerable groups to apply before the deadline.“In the absence of that data she is pressing a policy outcome which is highly likely to have severe discriminatory consequences: she is driving blind towards the cliff-edge,” Mr Bowen said.However, Justice Nathalie Lieven rejected the request for a judicial review, saying all such schemes needed a deadline and noted the Home Office’s argument that there would be a period of grace for people who could show they had reasonable grounds for making a late application.Satbir Singh, chief executive of the JCWI, said he was "deeply disappointed" by the decision, adding: "The fact remains that in June, tens of thousands of EU citizens are at risk of falling through the gaps and being made undocumented."A Home Office spokesman said: “There have been 4.6 million grants of status under the EU Settlement Scheme already, securing people’s rights in UK law. The scheme is simple and straightforward, with a wide range of support available online, over the phone and in person for those who have questions or need help applying."We continue to work closely with employers, local authorities and charities to raise awareness of the scheme and we continue to encourage EU citizens to apply.”* Citizens of the Irish Republic living in the UK may apply under the scheme but are not required to do so because of the long-standing Common Travel Area agreement between the two nations.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory

Related Articles