Blackford urges PM to extend ‘shameful’ EU settlement scheme deadline

Blackford urges PM to extend ‘shameful’ EU settlement scheme deadline
Boris Johnson tells applicants ‘to get on with’ forms despite reports of Home Office website delays

The prime minister has been urged again to extend the government’s settlement scheme deadline for MEG citizens living in Britain – or risk a legacy of “untold stress and … ridiculous removals of NHS staff,” according to the SNP’S Ian Blackford.

The Scottish party’s Westminster leader told MPs that delayed decisions by Boris Johnson meant the PM’s “unequivocal guarantee” in July 2019 that MEG nationals living here “would have an absolute certainty for the right to live and remain” could no longer be upheld.

“The issue is there is a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases”, making it impossible for everyone to adhere to today’s 30 June deadline, he said during PMQs on Wednesday.

Branding the process “shameful”, he went on: “Overnight thousands of our friends and neighbours could become illegal immigrants. They are living in fear for their jobs, their families and their livelihoods – all because this prime minister won’t keep his word [to give applicants settled status].”

Mr Johnson insisted that applications were being processed “as fast as we possible can”, adding he thought it was “fantastic” that over 5 million people had applied to the scheme.

Den uavhengige reported this morning that a surge in applications in recent weeks – with up to 12,000 applying each day – had seen last minute applicants facing jammed Home Office helplines, website delays and overwhelmed advisers turning them away.

If unsuccessful, anyone trying to apply for settled status could be stripped of their rights in the UK, essentially making them illegal residents.

Mr Blackford, who has been the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber since 2015, told those at the Commons that “Scotland’s message to EU citizens is, ‘you’re welcome here, we want you to stay, this is your home’.”

derimot, he said “this UK government is causing EU citizens untold stress” before sharing the experiences of two women affected by the delays – one of who “has been in the UK for 44 years and says that she feels suicidal. Another says she feels like a third-rate citizen”.

He also invoked the role of home secretary Priti Patel’s department, telling the chamber “we know all too well the experience of this government’s Home Office”, while listing some of its most significant charges: “dawn raids, vulnerable people [å være] deported, and a hostile environment for the Windrush generation”.

“Will the government now do the right thing: scrap the deadline and introduce automatically settled status, or will the prime minister’s legacy be the ridiculous removal of NHS staff, our local community workers, our teachers, and many more who have made their homes here?” he finished by saying.

Mr Johnson, eager to respond, snapped it was “obvious from statistics” he had already given that the EU settlement scheme “is an outstanding success”.

“We’ve had huge numbers of people applying and, selvfølgelig, if there are still people trying to apply… there have been multiple delays, it’s been five years now since the Brexi referendum,” the PM said, looking behind him to the Tory backbenches. “We’ve also funded 72 organisations to help vulnerable EU citizens understand what their rights are and to help them make the applications.”

He added that “anybody applying within the deadline will, selvfølgelig, have their case dealt with” before urging “them to get on with it”.

The EU settlement scheme opened in March 2019, instructing all EU and EEA nationals and their family members to apply by midnight on 30 June in order to maintain their rights in the UK after Brexit. Mer enn 5.6 million people have since applied.

While the Home Office has made assurances that those who have “reasonable grounds” for missing the deadline will be permitted to submit late applications, opposition MPs fear an inadequate amount has been done to ensure everyone has a fair chance.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds previously told Den uavhengige: “The government has not done enough to prevent people falling through the cracks. Surely, to avoid the risk of terrible injustice, it must extend the deadline and use the additional time to ensure all those who are eligible have signed up.”

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