EU expats in UK under threat of Windrush style disaster

Published:  31 May at 6 PM
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According to concerned MPs, the government’s policy on EU expats post-Brexit is likely to cause Windrush-style chaos.

Lawmakers working on the Home Affairs Select Committee have come out with serious concerns over the settlement scheme for EU expats already living in the UK. The plan was launched just two months ago by the Home Office, with its fatal flaws only now coming under scrutiny by parliamentarians. Some 3.8 million EU citizens are at present living in the UK, with those wishing to stay having to register their settled status by June 2021 should a deal be reached and by December 2020 if a no-deal Brexit has resulted.

In a report by the select committee criticising the plan, the prospect of a catastrophe along the lines of the Windrush scandal is considered likely, as many EU citizens will lose their rights to remain. The reports states the likelihood is deeply disturbing, especially concerning those who’ve made their homes in the UK in good faith. To date, some 750,000 EU expats have completed their applications for settled status, with the number including just 100,000 individuals from the one million-strong Polish community in the UK.

Lawmakers are now calling on the British government to enshrine in law the full rights of EU expats in the UK, thus guaranteeing all those living in the UK prior to the Brexit referendum legal residency in order to live and work as they are doing now. Chair of the committee MP Yvette Cooper told the media the government obviously hasn’t learned its lesson over Windrush, a scandal which demonstrated how easy it is for people to crash through gaps in any system, destroying their lives in the process. Many individuals, including the vulnerable, young people and children, aren’t yet accessing the scheme, and hard copy printed documents rather than just digital records are needed as EU expat citizens must deal with landlords, immigration officials and employers.

The committee is in favour of a system which simply requires EU expats to state they are in the country legally, a scheme which operates successfully in EU member states where new expat arrivals are required to notify the local town hall of their arrival and new address rather than having to produce reams of evidence or be denied registration. The Windrush generation scandal applied to long-term UK residents who’d arrived by request to rebuild war-torn Britain and who’d lived in the UK ever since, establishing communities and families over the years. Decades later, many were denied access to NHS cancer and other treatments, held in detention as illegal immigrants and even deported, until governmental common sense and compassion ended the scheme.
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