EU citizens’ watchdog launches legal case against UK Home Office

The agency responsible for safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom has opened legal proceedings against the UK government over the status of 2.5 million EU citizens given temporary residency rights in the UK.

The Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA) on Tuesday launched judicial review proceedings against the Home Office, arguing that the government’s position that citizens who fail to apply for Settled Status before the expiry of their Pre-Settled Status should automatically lose their rights is unlawful.

“In taking legal action now, we hope to provide clarity for those citizens with Pre-Settled Status of which there are 2.485 million as of 30 November 2021,” said Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, Chief Executive of the IMA.

Ahead of its exit from the EU, in 2018, the UK government launched its EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) for citizens living in the UK. According to the Home Office’s estimates, more than 5.5 million people had applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline on 30 June, of which more than 90% of applications have been approved for either ‘settled’ or ‘pre–settled’ status.

Both give EU citizens the same rights to benefits and services as UK nationals, though there have been cases where people with ‘pre–settled’ status have been denied access to welfare services.

UK ministers have argued that the EUSS is more generous than many of the reciprocal schemes offered to UK nationals living in the EU. Meanwhile, the Home Office has said that it looks for reasons to grant permanent status.

However, while around 57% of applicants have been granted settled status, 41% have been given a pre-settled status which only grants five years of residency, with reports that applicants could not understand why they were only given temporary status.

EU citizens who have been granted Pre-Settled Status must apply for Settled Status before their current status expires. If they do not apply in time, they will automatically lose rights to work, access housing, education and claim benefits and could be liable to deportation.

The IMA contends that having proved their right to remain in the UK, EU citizens should not face such risks.

In its ‘Statement of facts and grounds’ to the High Court, the IMA states that should people with ‘pre –settled’ status not apply in time “they will be exposed to considerable serious consequences affecting their right to live, work and access social security support in the UK. The Claimant contends that this is incompatible with the Agreements, which do not provide for loss of status in such circumstances.”

[Edited by Alice Taylor]


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