3.4m apply to stay in UK under EU settled status scheme | Politics

The number of people who have applied to stay in the UK after Brexit under the EU settled status scheme now stands at about 3.4 million, the Home Office has revealed.

It puts the government close to its overall goal for the scheme, with estimates of the number of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens eligible to remain in the country lying between 3.4 million and 3.8 million.

However, monthly data, which was published on Thursday, shows there is still a backlog of 320,000 applications and researchers at Oxford University have warned that many citizens may “fall through the cracks”.

EU citizens in children’s homes, care homes or those who are victims of domestic abuse, where others may not be aware or allow them to apply, have been cited previously as among those at risk.

Detailed breakdown provided by the Home Office shows there were 125,000 applications to the scheme in March.

This brought the overall number of applications received up to 31 March to 3,468,700, including approximately 180,000 non-EU nationals who are family members.

The total number of applications concluded was 3,147,000. Of those 58% were granted settled status and 41% granted pre-settled status.

Of the remaining applications 10,000 were invalid and 600 were refused, 98% of which were on eligibility grounds and 2% on “suitability grounds”, said the Home Office.

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said in a report, Not Settled Yet, published on Thursday, that there was no way of verifying whether the government was reaching its goal because there was no official means of doing so, as no registration system existed before for migrants.

Madeleine Sumption, the director of the research unit, warned of the dangers that the government could relax into thinking it had captured data for all of those eligible to remain in the UK when many may not apply at all.

“The government has invested a lot of effort in making the EU settlement scheme easy to use,” she said, “but with any scheme of this size it is inevitable that some people will fall through the cracks. It will be very hard to know to what extent this has happened, without a parallel investment in new data.

“For a host of reasons, it’s possible that the number of EU citizens granted status through the scheme could greatly exceed the current official estimate of 3.4 million but that wouldn’t necessarily mean the task is finished.”

The campaign group the3million said it had concerns that some of the more complex cases were now taking up to six months to resolve, creating anxiety for many families whose lives were put on hold.

It also expressed concern over the lack of information about refusals.

“We have gone from ‘nobody is being refused status on eligibility grounds’ to hundreds of refusals per month, without knowing why cases are being refused,” said Maike Bohn, one of the group’s co-founders.

“The real question is how many people have not applied, and the government simply doesn’t know it. Every single EU resident to miss the deadline of 30 June 2021, for whatever reason, will automatically lose their legal status in the UK. It is crucial we know how many, who, and where they are – but we have no data that would allow us to establish this.”

The data puts Polish citizens at the top, with 665,000 applicants, but it has been estimated previously there are about a million Poles in the country. Some have returned home after Brexit.

Romanians are the second highest number of applicants by nationality, at 564,300, followed by Italians at 351,600 and Portuguse at 273,000.

The Home Office said there was still more than a year left to go until the deadline and if someone had reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they would be given a further opportunity to apply.

It also pointed out that the scheme would open beyond 30 June 2021 “not just for those with reasonable grounds for applying late, but also to accommodate those granted pre-settled status, who will be able in due course to apply for settled status, and close family members living overseas at the end of the transition period (and children born after that date) who later join a resident EEA or Swiss citizen here with status under the scheme”.

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