Brexit: EU citizens’ children could lose right to stay in UK, senior MP warns

‘You could have quite a lot of children who could pass the deadline for the settlement scheme, be completely unaware of their rights – and to lose their rights’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 12 February 2019 13:01 GMT
Yvette Cooper warns EU children are at risk of losing right to stay in UK after Brexit

The children of EU citizens risk losing their right to stay in the UK after Brexit because of flaws in the application system, a senior MP has warned.

The alarm has been raised over youngsters who – in a repeat of the Windrush scandal – do not apply for the new settled status, perhaps because their parents believe them to be British.

Campaigners giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee told MPs of “a real concern” that there are no “safeguards in place”.

Yvette Cooper, the committee’s chair, said: “You could have quite a lot of children who could pass the deadline for the settlement scheme, be completely unaware of their rights – and to lose their rights”.

Around 3.7 million EU citizens in the UK must secure the right to stay, with a deadline of June 2021 – provided a no-deal Brexit is avoided.

The settled status scheme is already under fire because of fears the Home Office is unable to cope with 5,000 applications every day and because the IT only works on Android phones.

Theresa May was forced to respond to growing criticism by waiving application fees for EU citizens, which had been set at £65 for adults and £32.50 for children under the age of 16.

Now the inquiry has heard growing fears that the children of some EU nationals will be hit by that strict deadline – because their parents or carers fail to apply on their behalf.

Nicole Masri, legal officer at the group Rights of Women, said the application process “does not even ask who family members are”.

“We are not aware of any safeguards in place,” she told the committee. “This is a real concern for parents who don’t understand the needs of children.”

Marianne Lagrue, policy manager at the Migrant Children’s Project, said there was a fear for children in care, because local authorities only recorded their ethnicity – not their nationality.

Ms Cooper expressed surprise that there was no mechanism for settled status applicants to be identified through NHS or benefit records.

“So, there is currently no system in place to identify every child who should be entitled to settled status, to be able to go through the settlement scheme,” she said.

“And no system that would identify them before the end of the settlement scheme and the deadline kicks in.”

Ms Cooper also set out the grim situation for any EU citizen without settled status after Brexit “even though might have been living here all their lives”.

“If they don’t complete the application process by the deadline they will be here unlawfully, potentially unable to re-enter the country if they leave to visit family, potentially committing criminal offences just by working, potentially told by their landlord that they can no longer rent a property, potentially told by the NHS that they are no longer entitled to urgent treatment they might need, despite the fact they may have been paying in taxes for very many years,” she warned.

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