The Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA), a government-sponsored watchdog designed to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK, has issued judicial review proceedings against the department on the basis that it risks unlawfully stripping people of their rights.
Under the EU settlement scheme, which EU citizens were required to apply for in order to obtain post-Brexit immigration status, applicants who have lived in Britain for less than five years are granted pre-settled status, which expires after five years.
The total number of individuals granted pre-settled status up to 30 September 2021 is estimated to be 2.5 million
Before their pre-settled status expires, they are required to apply for settled status or re-apply for pre-settled status. If they do not apply in time, they will automatically lose rights to work, access housing, education and claim benefits and could be liable for deportation.
The IMA argues that the government’s position that citizens who fail to apply for settled status before the expiry date automatically lose their rights is unlawful.
In documents submitted to the High Court, the watchdog states: “If [pre-settled status holders) fail to apply for either status, the secretary of state will consider them to be unlawfully present in the UK.
“The result is that they will be exposed to considerable serious consequences affecting their right to live, work and access social security support in the UK.”
The IMA has already raised these concerns with the Home Office and issued them with a pre-action protocol letter on 15 October. The Home Office has said it does not agree with this interpretation and the IMA has therefore launched legal action
Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, chief executive of the IMA said: “In taking legal action now we hope to provide clarity for those citizens with Pre-Settled Status of which there are 2.485 million as of 30 November 2021.”
Luke Piper, head of policy at the3million, welcomed the legal action, adding: “The risks to millions of EU citizens and their family members’ livelihoods, housing and access to health care if they do not apply before their pre-settled status expires cannot be understated.
“The government should do the right thing, avoid this litigation and put the required safeguards in place to make sure no one faces losing their livelihoods simply because they forgot to fill in a form.”
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