UK ministers have been heavily criticised after introducing a helpline fee of 69p per minute for EU citizens who need to prove their right to stay in Britain post-Brexit to employers and landlords.
The fee meant people who have been living in the UK but have been forced to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme if they want to remain here after Brexit faced charges of just over £10 for 15 minutes.
A recorded message told callers seeking help that they would also need to have their card details to hand in order to pay a “pre-authorisation” fee of £5 before they speak to an assistant. the3million, an EU citizens rights campaigning group, sent a letter to immigration minister Kevin Foster.
Following the letter, the Home Office said today that the charge was caused by a “technical error” and that it would be resolved today.
In the letter, the3million said the charges are “contrary to the assurances given” in a High Court’s decision, as the Home Office has previously told the court that it would not charge for calls.
The letter read: “Clearly this is causing a lot of distress to EU citizens who are struggling to prove their status, especially in combination that there appear to be several technical issues known to the Home Office where people cannot access their digital status.”
According to the group, technical issues include people with pre-settled status who go on to apply for settled status and “can no longer see or prove their pre-settled status”, and people “who could view and prove their rights but now get an error message”.
Campaigners said many with pre-settled status attempting to obtain settled status have faced being presented as “an applicant with time-limited six-month rights rather than a holder of rights with several years before expiry”, as it was promised by the Home Office.
The Home Office told The Guardian there is an option on their helpline menu that does not incur fees.
The news come as a Spanish woman working in a care home has been sacked after not being able to prove her right to work in the UK post-Brexit, despite having been living in the UK since she was 11 months old.
She told The Guardian she tried more than 100 times to speak to the Home Office over the past three weeks, but could not get through the helpline, as the government processes a backlog of more than 500,000 cases.
the3million has previously told The London Economic that discrimination against EU citizens will surge this summer because of teething issues with the digital certificates handed out under the new settlement scheme.
Nicolas Hatton, the3million CEO, had warned people would struggle to prove their status from 1 July without a physical proof.
“The Home Office has recognised that not everyone can apply electronically but would not recognise that not everyone will be able to prove their status electronically,” he told TLE.