Women from EU countries living in the UK fear discrimination after Brexit because the registration system is confused by their maiden names.
The glitch will be place them in danger of being denied jobs, housing or NHS treatment, campaigners say – even after being given “settled status” to stay with a promise of protected rights.
The warning is being issued to coincide with International Women’s Day, as part of wider fears that Brexit will be a “trap” for abused women, those who work part-time or have taken career breaks.
It comes after the Commons home affairs committee highlighted how the children of EU citizens risk losing their right to stay after Brexit because of flaws in the application system.
The 3 Million campaign group said the looming danger for women showed the need for a simpler system to replace settled status, which left people “guilty until proven innocent”.
“If the government is serious about gender equality, it needs to change the design and make it a simple registration instead of a conditional application,” said spokeswoman Katia Widlak.
“People still need to register for settled status but won't get punished if they miss the deadline and will not be treated as illegal.”
The group pointed to the problems facing women whose passports are in their maiden name, but tax, NHS and domestic bill documents – to be used to prove residency – were in their married name.
“One elderly Dutch citizen told The 3 Million that she is ‘pulling my hair out. Tears of frustration. Been phoning the helpline several times,” it said.
“She is trying to get the settled status to be amended into her married name but has not been successful.”
The group spoke out as the government announced it intends to go ahead with the full scheme on 30 March – one day after Brexit day, although it is increasingly likely to be delayed.
During trials, the home office received 120,000 applications by the end of last month, of which around 105,000 have concluded, 71 per cent granted settled status.
However, a detailed report on the operation of the trials will only be issued on 30 March, provoking suspicions because it is a Saturday.
The full roll-out of will also see the implementation of Theresa May’s promise, in January, to scrap the much-criticised settlement fees of £65 for adults and £32.50 for under-16s.
The home office also downplayed suggestions by Sajid Javid, the home secretary, of possible delays before the fees paid by more than 100,000 people are repaid.
Mr Javid suggested further documents would have to be produced – but officials said everyone should be reimbursed automatically by 20 April.
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