‘I feel homeless’: Woman with British children who has lived in UK for years denied EU settled status

Latvian national Laura Randone fears for her rights in Britain as she waits months for review of refusal

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 20 December 2021 08:45
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Related: Ian Blackford urges PM to extend EU settlement scheme deadline

A woman with British children who has lived in the UK for five years has been refused EU settled status and is still waiting for the decision to be reviewed after months of anticipation.

Latvian national Laura Randone, 39, applied to the EU settlement scheme – which EU citizens in the UK must do in order to be granted post-Brexit immigration status – in May 2021 and was informed in August 2021 that her application had been denied.

The Home Office said this was because she had “not provided sufficient evidence” to confirm that she was in the UK for the time period required to meet the eligibility criteria.

Ms Randone, who is currently a stay-at-home mum and lives with her British husband and three young children, two of whom have British citizenship, immediately applied for an administrative review of the decision, at a cost of £80.

Government guidance previously stated that the review process should take less than 28 days, but this timeframe was recently increased to three months because, the department said, it was experiencing “unprecedented levels of applications which is causing a delay to [its] usual service”.

The guidance states: “We’ll make a decision on your application as soon as possible. If we have not been able to make a decision within three months of your application for an administrative review we’ll contact you again to update you on the situation.”

However, Ms Randone, who lives in Worcestershire, has now been waiting for more than four months and has heard nothing from the department regarding her case.

The Home Office states that during the review process, an applicant’s rights should be protected, but Ms Randone said she was worried about travelling out of the UK to visit her sick mother in Latvia in case she could not re-enter, based on what she was previously told by a border official.

“I received the rejection when I was in Latvia, and on return to the UK I was stopped at the border. The border agent said he could see that I had a review pending, but he said: ‘If you leave again, I’m fairly certain they will not let you back in’,” she said.

“It’s very stressful. Christmas is the time when it’s important to see your family. My mum is very unwell. She can’t walk properly. She needs help around her house. We need to stockpile wood so she can heat it.”

The 39-year-old is one of 194,000 people who have been refused EU settled status since the scheme opened in March 2019, many of whom are now going through the administrative review process.

There are 348,100 people still waiting for an initial decision on their EU settlement application. The official deadline to apply for 31 June 2021, though the Home Office is also considering late applications.

Campaigners say that while the government has made assurances that people with a pending application or review will have their rights protected, in practice, some of those on the ground who are checking their immigration status – such as border officials or employers – are wrongly concluding that they do not have rights.

Pawel Kolodziej, who works for the charity Settled, which assists people applying to the scheme, said he was “very concerned” about mounting delays in the review process and the protection of applicants’ rights while they wait.

“We have a lot of people who haven’t heard back from months with regards to their refusals. The general rule is that they are allowed to travel, but it gets complicated […] I don’t think all border guards are aware of the huge backlog of cases, so they will assume there is some issue with someone’s status if they don’t have a decision,” he said.

Luke Piper, head of policy at the3million, said the delays had “serious consequences” for people and went “far beyond anxiety about being held in limbo”.

“Jobs are threatened, work and rental opportunities are lost, travel is fraught with difficulties, and access to benefits is put at serious risk. These are the consequences that can start to spiral people into poverty and destitution,” he added.

“The government needs to do more to improve life for people in the backlog and to address its size quickly.”

Ms Randone said the refusal of her EU settlement application and the delay in the administrative review process had made her fearful about her future in the UK.

“Are they going to break our family apart? My kids have no other home. It makes me feel very sad because I treat this country as a home. I have a household here, my kids are British, English is their first language. I feel homeless,” she said.

The Home Office said: “There have already been more than 5.1 million grants of status under the hugely successful EU settlement scheme, which we developed to ensure our EU friends and neighbours could secure the status they need to stay here.

“EU citizens and their family members who were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, and who have a pending application to the EUSS, will continue to be able to travel in and out of the UK whilst their application remains pending.

“An application continues to be treated as pending throughout any administrative review or appeals process.”

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