The leader of Norwich City Council, Councillor Alan Waters, has urged the government to extend the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme.
Today (Wednesday 30 June) is the last day for EU/EEA citizens to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme so they can continue to live and work in the United Kingdom and protect their current rights.
Due to serious concerns around the deadline and current backlog (over 300,000 applications), Cllr Waters has today written to the government and local MPs detailing the consequences for those affected – and calling on government to extend the deadline by another six months.
In his letter, Cllr Waters referred to the “significant ramifications for the individuals involved, their families and on businesses and public bodies in Norfolk”. The letter further explains that many people will find themselves in limbo between 30 June and the time their application is processed where they would not technically be seen as legal residents.
His letter continues: “This could lead some to face crippling issues such as expensive NHS treatment costs or failing a Home Office immigration status check which could lead to being denied a bank account, having benefits removed and driving licences cancelled.
“Alongside the distress caused to residents in these situations, these types of issues would put significant pressure on the already stretched resources of local authorities. There are key areas in Norfolk that are heavily dependent upon migrant workers, many of whom come from the EU – significantly the hospitality, food processing, farming, and NHS & social care sectors. The county has a considerable population of Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Lithuanian and Latvian individuals as well as those from other EEA member states, and many have brought their dependents and other family members to join them and establish their lives here.
“It’s estimated that between 5 and 10 per cent will fail to apply by the deadline of 30 June and organisations in Norfolk are seeing an increase in contact with them desperate to get their problems solved so they can make an application, and others who are completely unaware of what they need to do. This could impact on our workforce and economy at an already insecure time as we come out of the pandemic.
“Furthermore, there are unanswered questions about the future, for example where a local authority would stand with regards to the section 17 duty to safeguard the welfare of children in need for those who suddenly find themselves without a status”.
The letter, which sets out the above concerns, petitions for an extension to the end of 2021 “so that people can live without fear of their rights being taken away from them while they await a decision to be made.”