According to research published today by the Migration Observatory, thousands of UK residents could be at risk of losing the legal status they are entitled to after we leave the EU—including many of society’s most vulnerable groups. The report, Unsettled status?, uses government data to estimate the size of different cohorts of EU citizens who could struggle to secure ‘settled status’. It finds that victims of domestic abuse, older people and children are among those at most risk.
This Migration Observatory research was funded by the Transition Advice Fund, a new, pooled fund run by NPC on behalf of its members the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Legal Education Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy. The fund aims to ensure the new application system is accessible and suitable for everyone, including those who may find it more difficult, and that people have the information and advice they need to make a successful application. We are keen to hear from organisations who can help us achieve our goals—our perspective on the key issues is set out in a paper drafted earlier in the year.
With Britain leaving the EU, more than 3 million people who have been living in the UK under European free movement will need to apply for settled status. This includes children who have lived their whole lives here, elderly people who have been here for decades, and people who have already battled through a notoriously convoluted process to get permanent residence. If they don’t manage to do this by June 2021, the government will consider them to be living here illegally and, we know from experience, there are always people who don’t apply for government schemes even when it is in their interests.
Registering more than 3 million citizens is no mean feat. Groups at risk include those who have difficulty with online applications, people who may struggle to provide the necessary evidence, and—perhaps one of the biggest challenges according to the report—people who may not even realise they need to do this in the first place.
With such a huge task ahead, the voluntary sector will have a critical role to play advocating on behalf of these groups and providing information and support. We will need to work alongside civil society in its widest sense: charities, NGOs, employers, unions, faith groups, schools, grassroots associations as well as with central and local government, embassies and consulates to ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
‘Unsettled status? Which EU citizens are at risk of failing to secure their rights after Brexit?’ is available on the Migration Observatory Website.