The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has launched a legal challenge in the High Court over the Government’s settled status scheme for EU citizens after Brexit.
The settled status scheme will enable EU citizens to continue living in the UK. It is currently undergoing a pilot phase and will be fully open by March 2019.
According to the Financial Times, JCWI argues in its challenge that the settled status scheme did not match ministers’ earlier claims that the rules would be simple and straightforward and that EU nationals resident in Britain would only be refused status if they had been convicted of serious criminal offences.
The Europe Street News website reported that new provisions for the scheme introduced in August means anyone who has previously been subject to “removal decisions for not exercising EU treaty rights” will also be refused.
Europe Street News says those affected by the new provisions will include EU citizens who were homeless or who were economically inactive and did not have comprehensive sickness insurance.
JCWI says this means the scheme is no longer simple and straightforward.
“This is far broader than what was promised and puts hundreds of thousands of EU nationals at risk who are regarded by the Home Office as not exercising treaty rights. This has nothing to do with criminality let alone serious criminality,” Europe Street News quoted a JCWI briefing as saying.
JCWI said on Twitter today: “The actual Rules [Home Secretary] Sajid Javid has published do require some EU citizens that they promised would be allowed to stay to be denied status. That is why we have launched a legal challenge to try and force the Government to keep the promise made [earlier].”
JCWI quoted an exchange by the then immigration minister Brandon Lewis where he said: “We are granting settled status to EU citizens who are living here and who do not fail a criminal records check.”
In November 2017, Brandon Lewis told Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee: “We are basing this scheme around three very simple stages of test: first, the verification of the applicant’s identity; secondly, a security check; and then confirming that ongoing residency.”
In June 2018, the Home Office published a statement of intent in which Sajid Javid wrote: “I am delighted to be publishing further details about how our EU Settlement Scheme will work and how simple and straightforward it will be for EU citizens and their families to secure their long-term status in the UK … This streamlined process will take applicants through three simple stages: proving their identity, checking they are not a serious criminal, and evidencing their residence in the UK.”
Chai Patel, JCWI’s legal policy director, was quoted in the Financial Times as saying the new provisions in the rules meant “[t]hat’s no longer true for hundreds of thousands of people because the key thing about removal orders is they can be made at any time.”
Patel added: “We’re now in a system where it’s a lottery that depends on the Home Office and whether they pick you up [for not exercising treaty rights] or not.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office told the Financial Times, however, that it would be generous in its interpretation of the rules and it would only use the new provisions to target serious criminals.
“A person will not be refused status under the EU Settlement Scheme because for example they are not economically active or they do not hold comprehensive sickness insurance,” the spokesperson said.