migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Unsettling

Editorial: Unsettling

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Unsettling

“I know I should apply but can’t bring myself to do it. I’m furious, I have been here for 24 years, have paid my taxes for all those years, have three children who were all born here. This is my home! Why do I need to apply to stay in my own home? I still have hope it might all not go ahead, I guess that’s partly why I’m waiting […] The whole thing makes my blood boil.”
 
These are the words of one person who completed our recent survey about the EU Settlement Scheme – and their feelings are not unusual. Dozens told us they felt angry, ashamed or stressed at the thought of applying or during the process itself, and dozens of others have faced technical glitches, communication problems, delays and bad decisions.

We are calling on all UK politicians and all who have a role to play in the continued development and implementation of the EU Settlement Scheme to read our report on the findings of this survey, published 19 November, and to act swiftly on its recommendations.

All EEA nationals and their families in the UK must apply to the Settlement Scheme if they wish to continue living here after Brexit. Those who have lived here at least five years are eligible for settled status – a form of permanent residence – while those who have lived here for less than five years can get pre-settled status – a form of temporary residence that is valid for five years and can be upgraded to settled status.

Anyone eligible to apply to the Settlement Scheme was eligible to complete our survey, and we heard from 229 people of at least 36 different nationalities.

While the majority found the process of applying relatively easy, a significant minority did not – or have not yet applied due to fear they could be refused, anxiety due to the process involved, or anger at the scheme itself. One person told us that their mental disability made the prospect of applying so daunting that they are leaving the UK in order to avoid doing it. 

Dozens told us the experience or prospect of applying had caused significant stress, anxiety or even depression. One said the process had left them feeling like "committing suicide".

Several people faced problems proving their identity to the Home Office, including two women who had changed their surname when they got married, and two transgender people. One transgender person said they were "scared about applying".

Others had been told to provide evidence of their residence in the UK beyond their National Insurance Number when this should not have been necessary. "It's a slap in the face to pay taxes for 10 years and then find out that the state doesn't even have your records," one person said.

Given the huge scale of the scheme – an estimated 3.5 million people are eligible to apply – these findings are worrying. If a handful of people in our survey are facing a particular problem, it’s likely that thousands or tens of thousands of others are facing something similar.

We are also aware that many EEA nationals/dependents who are facing the most severe barriers to applying won’t have completed our survey, often for the same reasons that they haven’t applied to the scheme: they may be unaware they need to, they may not have access to or the ability to use technology, they may be physically or mentally ill, or they may not have strong English language skills. It is likely that the scale of the problems that are explored in this report are even worse for many of these groups.

There is an urgent need for a more efficient and accurate application processing system, for an end to the policy that will turn unknown numbers of UK residents into undocumented migrants, and for an expansion of support networks where these are needed most.

The message, repeated so often by our politicians, that EEA nationals and their families are welcome here must be made a reality through legislation that guarantees their rights, regardless of the outcome of Brexit, and through a declaratory or registration scheme that works for all.

Read the report here.