The Home Office did not answer more than half the phone calls made by EU citizens seeking to preserve their post-Brexit rights, it has emerged.
The department’s own data reveals just 44 per cent of calls got through between November 2020 and 2021, pro-EU website Free Movement said.
During this period, over 1.4 million calls were made in an attempt to address problems and clear confusion related to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) – but just around 650,000 were connected, a Freedom of Information request revealed.
‘Some nights I don’t sleep at all’
Disconnected callers were told by an automatic message that the Home Office was experiencing “high demand” for their “services” before the line cut off.
Although the Home Office highlighted average waiting times have been under 15 minutes since 30 June last year, the main EUSS deadline, the figure does not account for over 50 per cent of the calls, which were disconnected.
One EU citizen told campaigners the3million about the mental health impact of trying to reach the Home Office to keep their rights after Brexit. “I was told to provide evidence of the years 2013-2021, but I am not sure what and how much exactly they require. So I have been trying to ring the helpline which so far has always ended in the call being terminated. I sleep even worse than usual, some nights not at all.”
There are an estimated 320,000 EUSS applications currently in the backlog. But those whose applications were already finalised and who obtained their pre-settled or settled status are also facing problems in proving their rights after Brexit.
‘I can’t visit my mum abroad’
One EU citizen told the3million that upon trying to link their new passport to their settled status, they were unable to reach the Home Office for a progress update.
“I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait. It could be days, weeks or months. I’m frustrated because there’s no way to chase this up, as I can’t get through to the Home Office on the phone.
“I can’t go visit my mum abroad, as I won’t be able to return to the UK if I travel.”
Another added: “I need to share my code with a potential employer but I can’t log in my account. This has been an ongoing issue. The website says I am already logged in but I am not. The helpline says they are busy and there is no way I can get through, they are just ending my call and asking me to call another time.”
In August, minister for future borders and immigration Kevin Foster said in a government letter that “the move away from physical documents to an online status represents a change which individuals and service providers may take time to adjust to”.