The SNP’s Pete Wishart (pictured) has renewed calls for the UK government to support EU citizens and ensure that their rights are not impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Perth and North Perthshire MP, has written to Home Secretary urging her to assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on EU citizens’ rights under the EU settlement scheme, extend the deadline to apply, and grant a concession for EU citizens applying for settled status who have inadvertently broken their continuity of residence.
Last week, the SNP’s Justice and Home Affairs team at Westminster also called on the Home Office to support EU citizens during this crisis – saying that self-isolation, social distancing and illness will impact the ability of EU citizens to apply to the EU settlement scheme and access vital help, including those eligible for settled status that have inadvertently broken their continuity of residence due to travel restrictions.
Mr Wishart adds that charities and organisations, in his constituency and across Scotland and the UK, are currently unable to give face to face support, scanning centres are closed and there is reduced capacity within the Home Office to process and support successful completion of applications.
Commenting, Pete Wishart MP said:
“Around 600,000 EU nationals have still to apply for Settled Status in the UK and those that are currently applying are finding a number of delays and difficulties in contacting the Home Office and accessing resources for assistance due to the Coronavirus crisis.
“Many of the charities and organisations who work to assist EU nationals are not in operation just now, and the ID document scanner locations and postal routes for submitting identity evidence have been suspended.
“This is adding to the stress of those EU nationals who have made the UK their home and are still anxious about the bureaucracy that they are required to negotiate in order to stay in the UK.
“I am urging the Home Secretary to extend the deadline to apply, and grant a concession for EU citizens applying for settled status who have inadvertently broken their continuity of residence.
“The UK government cannot allow a whole cohort of people to fall through the gap and be left without support, many who are key workers in our supermarkets, food production, NHS and social care and supporting the country through this crisis.
“These people deserve certainty.
“We have no idea how long current pandemic restrictions will be in place and how quickly arrangements will return to normal when the current situation eases.
“EU nationals living in the UK should now be fully supported and the Settlement Scheme should be delayed or adapted to meet the impact of the coronavirus crisis.”
Commenting, the 3million’s co-founder, Maike Bohn said:
“The health and safety of all UK residents is a key priority in the changed world we find ourselves in.
“This includes EU citizens who will have to navigate limited or no support to apply for Settled Status and access to social security.
“Some are at risk of not qualifying because they cannot return to the UK due to travel restrictions, others can’t access necessary documentation including nationality documents.
“We need to know what strategies are in place to ensure that those who need to apply will do so, and before the deadline.
“What assessments are in place to establish when it will be appropriate to extend the grace period and how will that assessment be made?
“We are grateful to the SNP’s Justice and Home Affairs team for raising the issues and look forward to working with the Home Office to find the right solutions together.”