EU citizens are struggling to apply for post-Brexit settlement status as the Home Office hits a ‘tipping point’ amid an increase in last-minute applications.
With three days before the EU’s settlement program deadline on Wednesday, activists say late applicants are stranded in online queues as others find it impossible to access advice from the government helpline.
Latest government statistics show a growing backlog of requests. Out of 5,605,800 requests, only 5,271,300 have been processed to date. Other estimates suggest that tens of thousands – perhaps as many as 150,000 – others have not even applied yet.
The figures have stepped up calls in the UK to follow France’s lead and announce an extension of the deadline, a move that has kept British nationals in the country safe from losing their rights.
France on Thursday extended its June 30 deadline for new post-Brexit residence permits by three months, giving Britons more time to secure local health care, employment and other rights.
However, UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster has ruled out extending the deadline despite a late increase in applications, estimated at more than 10,000 per day.
Campaign group the 3million, whose name underscores the vast underestimation of the number of EU citizens who previously lived in the UK, said he had received numerous reports of people struggling to receive a “certificate of application”, documents which ensure that their rights are protected while their application is pending.
Monique Hawkins of the3million said that an indication of the number of EU citizens who ‘struggled’ to obtain a certificate of application was evidenced by the number of people reporting being stuck in a queue after accessing to the government website on settlement status.
Hawkins also said there were serious concerns about the helpline’s ability to cope. To date, the helpline has received 1.5 million calls in addition to over 500,000 requests for help through an online contact form.
“If people have a problem or a question, they can’t go through. Instead, they get a message saying, “Sorry, the helpline is full, try again later. “
“There are a lot of complex apps trying to get through that get blocked by people unable to get help. The organizations set up to help people are also outdated, the system is at a breaking point, ”said Hawkins.
The Home Office last week warned EU citizens living in the UK that they will be given a formal 28-day notice if they do not apply for post-Brexit settlement status by the date limit.
The notices will warn them to file a claim or risk losing their rights to health care and employment.
Activists fear that many EU citizens are still unaware of the deadline and the threat to their rights.
“There will be a lot of complex and vulnerable people who also haven’t been contacted because they won’t see the last-minute material on social media,” Hawkins said.
The Home Office said last week it was redoubling its attempts to reach those unaware of the impending rule change, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children in care.
Another area of concern is the potential delays in issuing certificates of application. Although they wrote to the Home Office in April, the 3 million say they still don’t know the legal situation if someone has submitted an application but has not received a certificate.
Meanwhile, the backlog of applications has reached over 330,000. Although the Home Office says the process typically takes five days, new data reveals that more than two-thirds of applicants for settlement in the EU have been waiting for a decision for over a month, and thousands have been waiting for over a year.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “As we approach the June 30 deadline for the EU’s settlement system, our settlement center is seeing an increase in appeals but continues to decline. helping thousands of customers every day.
“Anyone who has already filed an application has their rights protected, even if the application is not closed before the deadline. We want to prioritize those who have not yet applied and need additional support to do so. If you have already made a request, please do not call the Claims Resolution Center to verify.