The EU Settlement Scheme Might Contribute to Discrimination as Applications Reach 6 Million

The EUSS scheme was launched in March 2019 to register EU citizens as settled residents in the UK. This was following the UK’s departure from Brexit, as a provision of the UK ending the freedom of movement between the UK and EU.

Under the scheme, EU citizens in the UK will be guaranteed their rights, including access to benefits and healthcare. EU citizens who have not applied could possibly lose their rights or be subject to deportation subject to their settled or pre-settled status. 

The scheme officially closed on 30 June, with applicants proving they were living in the country before 31 December. Applications beyond the 30 June deadline will be considered based on “reasonable grounds”.

By the end of May 2021, 5.6 million people had applied for EU settlement in the UK, which is far higher than the government’s estimations of 3.7 million.

An estimation of 400,000 applications were made in the final month before the end of the EU Settlement Scheme.This means the government’s deadline has now left workers working overtime and beyond the deadline to assist families with their pending applications who are wishing to remain in their homes and jobs.

A key concern is that this kind of immigration policy could result in a loss of rights similar to the Windrush generation where many legal settlers from the West-Indies were wrongly affected by government intervention on illegal immigration. Many lost their jobs and housing because they did not have the desired paperwork proving residency rights.

The right to rent policy in England now means landlords are obliged to check the immigration status of those wishing to rent from them, and the status of a pending application to the EU settlement scheme. This is in addition to the looming fine of £3,000, or a criminal conviction for landlords who do not conduct the proper checks, which might contribute to more discrimination like this in the housing sector. This is particularly an issue with the deadline confusing landlords and employers who do not realise they can employ/rent to someone with a pending application. 

There is also a concern disproportionately affecting women who applied to the scheme under their married names as they may struggle to prove their status due to a computer glitch registering them under their birth names. The digital move is also affecting those who are on pre-settled status who need to reapply and do not have the facilities or access to reminders in order to do so.

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Una Jones

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November 2021
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