Thousands of children and young people’s rights at risk as EU settlement deadline looms
Campaigners warn that tens of thousands of EU citizens – including vulnerable children and young people – are in danger of losing their legal status and rights as 30 June deadline approaches.
A coalition of 45 charities and organisations working with vulnerable people has asked the Government to scrap the 30 June deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme “as a matter of urgency” as significant numbers of people remain at risk of losing their rights.
Writing to the Prime Minister, the coalition warns that despite the Home Office providing support for marginalised EU children and young people to make applications to the EUSS, many children in care and care leavers have yet to do so.
The organisations say that their success in helping many people apply to the EUSS should not be used by the Government to deny the existence of tens of thousands of EU citizens who are in danger of being left behind by the scheme.
The coalition warns that if even one percent of the millions of EU citizens resident in the UK are unable to apply, that would leave thousands of EEA+ children and young people undocumented, vulnerable to exploitation and “facing hostile environment policies” including detention and removal.
The letter warns that no comparable scheme has ever succeeded in reaching its entire audience and will undoubtedly leave people behind. Campaigners also caution that the pandemic has also placed additional barriers to people accessing the scheme.
“The onset of the COVID pandemic and necessary Government-enforced restrictions have made much of our work significantly more difficult due to a switch to virtual support and limiting of services,” the letter read, continuing: “Without this in-person support, some of the people we assist do not feel confident or able to make an application to the EUSS, for example where there is limited digital capacity. In addition, many embassies have been forced to close so cannot process identity documents, which has created further delays and challenges to our work.”
The chilling effect of the pandemic was echoed in the findings of the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit’s (GMIAU) annual report, which said “COVID-19, as always, is part of the story”.
The organisation, which exists to advise, support, and represent people in the North West who are subject to immigration controls said the pandemic has created “huge delays in services”, which is a particular problem with visa services and embassies.
Telling the story of Anna, 15, originally from Latvia and in the care of children’s services for the last three years, and her social worker Marie; the report detailed how the only ID document Anna had was her Latvian passport, which had expired. The Latvian embassy said getting a new passport would take two months, and that COVID-19 meant restricted travel and limited access to services, extending the wait even further.
Amanda Shah, Senior Policy Officer at GMIAU, said the report highlighted the “devastating consequences for communities” of an immigration system that exploits people because of their race, class, and gender.
“Make no mistake, the pandemic only highlighted the gross injustices already faced by too many people we live and work alongside in the North West.”
Marianne Lagrue, Policy Manager, Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said that while it is positive the Home Office has provided funding for charities, local authorities, and community organisations to reach some vulnerable EU citizens and family members, “that funding could never reach everyone”.
“The support work undertaken by grant-funded organisations should not be used as a justification for not taking action to amend the EUSS to protect the rights of EU citizens and their families.”
Read the GMIAU report (PDF): https://gmiau.org/download/6537/
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