Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: It's not too late on citizens' rights

Editorial: It's not too late on citizens' rights


 Migrant Voice - Editorial: It's not too late on citizens' rights

For millions of people, 29 March 2019 has long been synonymous with one thing: Brexit. Around 3.6 million of those people are EU nationals living in the UK.  

For them, today may bring hope, that the future isn’t yet set in stone; it may bring despair, that the uncertainty of the last years is being prolonged; it may bring a new determination to hang onto the homes and lives they’ve built here, or to relinquish them and seek a new life elsewhere.

This afternoon, we’ve seen the government’s Brexit deal defeated for a third time in the House of Commons, increasing the chances of a no deal Brexit, but also of no Brexit at all.

In this continuing uncertainty, we remain concerned about the futures of EU nationals in this country.

Many of our concerns were echoed in a report by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Human Rights earlier this week.

Under the settled status policy, all those who don’t apply before the deadline will be stripped of their rights and left undocumented, and those who do apply and are given status have no physical proof of it.

It’s deeply troubling that thousands could be left unable to access their rights to housing, pensions or benefits, and that millions will have no evidence that they still have those rights. In the world created by the government’s hostile environment and data-sharing policies that have encouraged suspicion towards all those who look or sound foreign, the lives of those with settled status – but who are unable to prove it – begin to look precarious too.

Those same policies will likely discourage many EU nationals from applying for status at all, fearful of giving their personal information to a Home Office that has developed a reputation for bad decisions and undue punishments.

The immigration bill currently making its way through Parliament does little to alleviate our concerns, stripping EU citizens of their rights without the legislation in place to restore them.

It’s not too late to change the system. It’s not too late to create one where existing rights are guaranteed, where people register to continue accessing their existing rights, rather than being forced to apply and face possible rejection, and where those who do not register are not punished; one where people have multiple options for registering, including by post, in person, or online; one that provides everyone with proof of their status, and that does not demand the submission of piles of evidence.

Since the UK is not leaving the EU today, there is still time to put this right.

Prime Minister, Home Secretary, Members of Parliament, heed our call and that of millions of others – before it is too late.


TOP IMAGE: Stephen Darlington, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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