High court rejects legal bid to extend the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) beyond the June deadline. The legal action mounted by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) came after concerns that thousands of people risk losing their status and becoming criminalised overnight.
The UK government introduced the EU Settlement Scheme as a route through which EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens and their family can apply for status in the UK.
By the end of last year, 4.9 million applications for the scheme had been received, with 4.6 million people granted permission to remain in the UK. The deadline for the application is June 30, and failure to successfully apply by then will mean being without immigration status. Among the groups of people likely to miss the deadline are children, physically and mentally challenged people, and older EU residents.
Paul Bowen QC, who represented the JCWI at the hearing, told the court that those groups of people could be ‘exposed to the consequences of the hostile environment; at risk of losing their jobs, homes, access to benefits, and healthcare, driving licences, detention, criminalisation and removal – a second Windrush, but on a much bigger scale.’
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have broken their promise to give EU citizens an automatic right stay in the UK
Lawyers for the JCWI also accused the home secretary of not having enough data to ensure the necessary steps were being taken to encourage vulnerable people to apply before the deadline.
Despite JCWI’s argument, however, Justice Nathalie of the high court rejected their request for a judicial review, stating that it was in the nature of all application schemes to have a deadline, and alluded to the Home Office’s argument that it would give a grace period for those who could prove they had genuine reasons for making late applications.
JCWI is also concerned about the fact that the vast majority of people found the process difficult, and some groups would likely find it more difficult, which will increase the likelihood of seeing their applications fail.
The scheme discriminates against disabled people, older people, looked-after children, and several others
While the Home Office also acknowledge that some groups will find it more challenging, such as women in coercive relationships, children, and those who lack the physical and mental capacity to apply, David Blundell QC, acting for the Home Department, stated that actions had been taken to encourage applications from such categories of applicants. A Home Office spokesperson also added that the scheme is simple, ‘with a wide range of support available online, over the phone and in person for those who have questions or need help applying.’
Reacting to the judgement, the chief executive of the JCWI, Satbir Singh, expressed deep disappointment over the court’s decision. He stressed that tens of thousands of EU citizens risk “falling through gaps and being made undocumented,” leading to the hostile environment which has “already ruined the lives of countless of people, including the Windrush generation.”
People could be ‘exposed to the consequences of the hostile environment – a second Windrush, but on a much bigger scale.’
He further argued that not only have Boris Johnson and Priti Patel broken their promise to give EU citizens an automatic right stay in the UK, they have also created a scheme that discriminates against disabled people, older people, looked-after children, and several others. “The government must do the right thing and lift the June deadline,” Singh demanded.[Header image: gov.uk]