Three million EU nationals get right to stay in UK

While welcoming these numbers, the campaign group the3million is worried about the rise in EU nationals deemed ineligible to stay in the UK. David Sapsted investigates.

Empty immigration queues at an airport
The number of European Union nationals in the UK granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme passed the three million mark last month, the Home Office has revealed.

Concerns about rise in number of applicants deemed ineligible

While welcoming the arrival of the milestone, the3million group, which campaigns on behalf of EU expats in the UK, expressed concern over the sudden jump in the number of applicants deemed ineligible.Until this month's figures, only seven people had had their bids for settled status rejected, all of them on the grounds of their criminal records. Now the Home Office has said 300 have been turned down for failing other eligibility tests, such as they could not provide supporting documentation relating to their employment, relationships or time spent living in Britain.Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million, told The Independent she was concerned by the fact that, while there had been no refusals on eligibility grounds outside criminality before February 2020, there was now a sharp rise.“This is hard to explain. We urgently need more explanation from the Home Office as to why those cases have been refused,” she said.And while she accepted the number of rejections was still low in proportion to the total granted, she added, “It is concerning that, as soon as the UK left the EU (at the end of January), we see people being refused settled status.”
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Concerns about Coronavirus impacting EU Settlement Scheme outreach and advice

Christopher Desira, an immigration layer at the Seraphus law firm, told the newspaper there were likely to be increasing numbers of refusals particularly among "people in uncommon family arrangements, which tend to be the most complex applications".He also expressed concern over the gaps in free outreach and advice services that are likely to result from the Coronavirus outbreak and called on the Home Office to pause any refusals until the virus emergency had passed.However, the Home Office said that a wide range of support was available online, over the phone and in person to help EU citizens apply. "There are over 1,500 Home Office staff working on the EU Settlement Scheme with 250 Settlement Resolution Centre staff in place to provide assistance to applicants with any questions about the scheme or who need help applying," said the department.Immigration Minister Kevin Foster commented: "EU citizens have made huge contributions to our country. It’s good news over three million have now been granted status and will be able to continue to call the UK home for decades to come."

Home Office funding to charities to help vulnearable EU citizens apply for settlement

Individuals from the European Economic Area and Switzerland have until June 2021 to apply to remain permanently in the UK under the scheme. Up to the end of last month, more than three millions applications had been made in England, 166,300 in Scotland, 54,500 in Wales and 55,400 in Northern Ireland.The government added, "Last year, the Home Office awarded £9 million funding to 57 charities across the UK who have helped hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people already. A further £8 million of funding was announced earlier this month to help vulnerable EU citizens apply."Additional support is also available to those EU citizens in the UK who do not have the appropriate access, skills or confidence to apply. This includes over 300 assisted digital locations across the UK where people can be supported through their application and over 80 locations where people can have their passports scanned and verified."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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