Tens of thousands of EU citizens living in the UK will receive a 28-day notice if they fail to apply for the Settlement Scheme by the 30 June deadline, the government has warned.
The letters will urge them to apply within the next few days or risk losing key rights such as healthcare, access to rent or work, The Guardian has reported.
But EU rights group the3million said the notices will only reach “a small few” and “make little to no difference to people’s rights”.
And Luke Piper, head of policy at the3million, said there are “serious gaps” in the 28-day measure, and suggested people’s rights are in the hands of landlords and employers whom the government has not been properly liaising with.
He said: “It only applies to those in current jobs or rentals and not new ones after deadline.
“There is no mechanism to make sure landlords or employers are doing this.
“Too little. Too late.”
No deadline extension, the government says
Although many EU citizens rights activitists urged the government to extend the deadline, fearing many vulnerable groups will fall through the cracks, immigration minister Kevin Foster rejected the request.
He said: “Put simply, extending the deadline is not the solution to reaching those people who have not yet applied, and we would just be in a position further down the line where we would be asked to extend again, creating more uncertainties,” he said.
But he promised those who do not apply by the deadline will not have their social welfare benefits removed from 1 July and that the Home Office will be flexible and lenient.
‘Certificate of application’
It comes after Scotland has proven to be a trailblazer in preserving EU citizens rights, being the first to announce they will guarantee those rights through using devolved powers – and called the UK government “pig-headed” when it comes to Brexit.
“We don’t believe there even should be an EU settlement scheme, and of course Scotland didn’t vote to come out of the EU but we are where we are,” Scotland’s Europe minister Jenny Gilruth said.
Meanwhile, a backlog of hundreds of thousands of applications for the EU settlement scheme has prompted the government to announce they will issue a “certificate of application”.
Foster said applicants can use the certificate as “proof to access their right to work or rent”, and use the NHS.
The Home Office said they will work with those who do not apply after 28 days to find out the reasons why that is the case, said they would support them to submit an application.
But they said that after those 28 days those who will not have applied “may be liable for enforcement action and will not be eligible for work, benefits or services”.
They said decisions will be made based on potential immigration law breaches and on a “careful assessment of the individual’s circumstances.”