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Analysis

We mustn’t repeat Windrush scandal with EU citizens

by Hugo Dixon | 19.04.2018

Given the Home Office’s attempt to kick out Commonwealth citizens legally here, what is the chance it can smoothly register 3 million EU citizens post-Brexit?

The terrible tales of Kafkaesque bureaucracy, combined with the “hostile environment” to migrants that Theresa May instituted when Home Secretary, aren’t just of concern to the “Windrush” generation. They have been noticed by our friends on the other side of the Channel.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, told MEPs: “After the Windrush scandal in Britain we want to be sure that the same is not happening to our European citizens and that there is no bureaucratic nightmare there.”

No civilised nation should put people through such misery. It would be a stain on our country’s reputation if we kicked EU citizens out because we didn’t registered them properly, destroyed the records or created a labyrinth of officialdom few could navigate.

The government plans a process depending on how long EU nationals have been living here. Anybody who has been in the UK for five years can apply for “settled status”. This means they will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and go on to apply for British citizenship. Those who have been here for a shorter period can apply for “temporary permission to stay”. After they have lived here five years, they can then apply for settled status.

EU citizens have to apply for either temporary permission to stay or settled status by end June 2021. Anybody who comes during the 21-month transition period after we quit the EU next March will also have three months to register with the authorities.

(Home Office)

So far, so complicated. There are two key questions. First, will the Home Office be up to the task of registering all those who apply smoothly and without any errors in time? Second, what will happen to people who fall through the cracks and aren’t registered for one reason or another?

The Home Office is working with charities and other groups to ensure nobody misses out. Fingers crossed, it will all work on the night. But maybe it won’t.

Given the Home Office’s track record, we should first design the process and then test it. Only once some independent body has validated it is bullet-proof should we press ahead.

The prime minister should give a cast-iron guarantee to do this. If she refuses, Parliament should pass an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill writing such a commitment in stone.

We can’t undo the damage to the Windrush generation. But we must avoid repeating it.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

One Response to “We mustn’t repeat Windrush scandal with EU citizens”

  • Mr Verhofstadt might be worried and appalled etc at the Windrush fiasco and rightly so. However the EU themselves are doing nothing to ensure that UK citizens and their children and grandchildren etc will not be in the same boat. It seems that neither the EU or the 27 countries are making any provisions for UK citizens. clearly our government cannot be relied on to protect the position of UK citizens who just seem to be flotsam and jetsam in this Brexit debacle . There is previous little consideration given to them by politicians or the Media