UK Government urged to extend rights of EU nationals amid warnings ‘hundreds of thousands' face losing their rights
The UK Government has been urged to extend the rights of EU nationals amid warnings “hundreds of thousands” face losing their rights overnight.
SNP immigration spokesman Stuart McDonald this week wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel claiming citizens from Europe were struggling to access social security due to complex rules in the Habitual Residency Test.
It follows reports of EU nationals being stopped at the border with extra demands to prove their status, and students being told to pay more than £1,000 to use the NHS before claiming it back as a refund.
The Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East MP was speaking after the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants warned thousands, including care workers, could miss the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme, risking EU nationals being criminalised overnight.
He said: “Step by step the UK Government appears intent on rolling out the hostile environment to EU citizens, who were repeatedly promised by UK ministers that their rights would not be impacted by Brexit. This is yet another broken promise from the Tory government.
“Already we are seeing EU citizens, who have made their home here in the UK, contributed to society and helped to tackle the coronavirus crisis, being stopped at the border, refused social security and encouraged to leave.
“This is hardly the mark of a government doing what they can to encourage EU citizens to stay or protecting their rights – and is in stark contrast to the message from the SNP Scottish Government that we want people to stay.
"The danger is that much worse is set to follow in July after the deadline for settled status applications passes and many thousands are stripped of their rights overnight.
“My SNP colleagues and I have consistently warned that by failing to automatically extend the rights of EU nationals in the UK and instead forcing them to apply for settled status, the UK Government would be responsible for tens if not hundreds of thousands losing all their rights overnight.
“I am urging the Prime Minister to heed our warnings and keep the promise he and his Home Secretary made during the Brexit referendum and extend the rights of EU nationals in the UK automatically.”
UK Government minister for future borders and immigration Kevin Foster defended the approach, explaining there had been more than five million applications already.
He said: "There are four months left to apply before the June 30, 2021 deadline, with support available online, on the phone and from our grant funded partners.
“The government has made clear where a person eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply.
“As already confirmed, the Home Office intends to publish clear, non-exhaustive guidance in spring 2021 on what constitutes reasonable grounds for missing the deadline.
"We will take a pragmatic and flexible approach in considering the circumstances of each case, so that those who miss the deadline through no fault of their own can still obtain lawful status in the UK.”
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.