The UK Government treatment of EU nationals leaves much to be desired. Today I asked about only one of many issues causing concern as we near the deadling for settled status applications. The insistence of the UK Government on online applications is making life unnecessarily difficult, but as you can see, there is no acceptance of a need to re-think.
My colleagues and I will continue working hard to keep up pressure on the UK government to automatically grant post-Brexit residence status to EU nationals in the UK - or hundreds of thousands of EU nationals could lose their right to work overnight, which could cripple Scotland’s economy.
The Home Office must also scrap the two-tier system and issue physical proof of UK residency to EU nationals to prevent another scandal similar to Windrush.
Around 400,000 people are still waiting for their application to be concluded and campaigners say there could be hundreds of thousands more yet to even start the process.
The SNP and campaigners have repeatedly warned that the June 30th deadline will pass before applications are concluded, which risks EU nationals being stripped of their rights overnight - including their right to work. Many EU nationals work in Scotland’s NHS, as well as in its agriculture, hospitality and tourism sectors.
Failure to implement a declaratory system will also see EU citizens exposed to the Tory government’s hostile environment policies - which have ramped up in recent weeks.
Even before Brexit, between 2016 and 2020, more than 13,000 EU citizens were refused entry at UK ports and airports. By 2019, a quarter of all enforcement checks in UK cities were imposed on EU citizens.
There are just over three weeks left to prevent a hammer blow to Scotland’s economy and save EU nationals - who were repeatedly promised by the Tory government that their rights would not be impacted by Brexit - from the hostile environment, which the Home Office has doubled down on this year.
It is vital that the Tories heed our calls and automatically grant post-Brexit residence status to EU nationals in the UK so that many - particularly those who work in Scotland’s key sectors - are not stripped of their right to work overnight. At the very least, they should extend the deadline for applying for settled status.
Our NHS and businesses, who are just getting back on their feet after the worst of the coronavirus crisis, could face another hammer blow in the form of a staffing crisis. Our tourism and hospitality sector in particular could face a loss of workers smack bang in the middle of the summer holidays - their busiest times normally but more so now that many are staycation-ing instead of travelling abroad.
Already we have seen EU citizens, who have made their home here in the UK, contributed to society and helped to tackle the coronavirus crisis, being detained and deported, refused social security and encouraged to leave.
This is hardly the mark of a government doing what they can to encourage EU citizens to stay or protecting their rights – and is in stark contrast to the message from the SNP Scottish Government that we want people to stay. Scotland wants better than these toxic Tory policies but we can only achieve that with independence.