The current settled status scheme places the human rights of EU citizens at fundamental risk – their right to their private and family life, to work, to health and to social security are undermined. EU citizens have been living here as a right, but will now be required to apply for permission to stay in their own homes and communities. If the UK leaves the European Union, the EU Settle-ment Scheme must be changed:
In the 2016 EU referendum campaign, it was promised that there would be “no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK” and that EU citizens would “automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and treated no less favourably than they are at present”. Yet, under the current Scheme these promises cannot be delivered. Many EU citizens and family members will struggle to obtain their status due to a variety of factors, including a lack of awareness about the scheme and lack of support, or difficulty, in obtaining documentation.
No comparable application scheme anywhere has ever succeeded in reaching 100% of its audience, and it is unlikely that the UK Government will manage to do so. We know that it is the most vulnerable in society – including elderly and disabled people and children – who are at greatest risk of falling through the cracks. It will be up to the new Government to ensure that crucial changes are made to prevent hundreds of thousands of EU citizens and family members falling out of status and effectively becoming criminalised after the cut-off point.
There are many EU citizens at risk of missing out on secure immigration status. This includes, for example, women who have experienced domestic violence, victims of trafficking, older people, those without online access, those with language or cultural barriers, and those who are isolated and have less contact with authorities. We appreciate that the Scottish Government has provided funding to Citizens Advice Scotland and others to provide advice and outreach events. However, we call for a step-change in this provision to ensure that no EU citizen misses out.
A Declaratory System
EU citizens and family members should be granted an automatic right to settled status so that there will be no cliff-edge where they are suddenly deemed ‘unlawful’ and subject to all of the problems of the hostile immigration environment, including potential deportation. Under a declaratory system, EU citizens and family members will still need to register in order to avoid difficulties in their day-to-day life and the new Government can create fair incentives for people to register. However, this is the most effective way to avoid individuals, many of whom may be vulnerable in some way, suddenly losing their homes and their jobs.
Physical Proof of Immigration Status
The current settled status only enables digital proof of status. We know that already, landlords and employers are asking EU citizens for evidence of the right to live here. We also know that a lack of physical documentation will lead to discrimination and racism, and greater vulnerability to hostile environment measures.
All other migrants and British citizens can choose to obtain physical documentation to prove their status and there is no reason why this right should be denied to EU citizens and family members.
The Right to Appeal
The right to appeal is a crucial means of accessing justice. Currently the system only includes ‘administrative review’. However, before access to the tribunal was severely restricted by provisions in the Immigration Act 2014, around 49% of appeals were successful. Whereas, over the same period in 2015/16, the success rate for administrative reviews conducted in the UK was 8%, falling to just 3.4% the year after. We know too that the Home Office has a record of poor decision-making – as evidenced in a the recent Freedom From Torture report which explores failure in UK asylum decision making.
In the Queen’s Speech, the Government suggested that the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill will give EU citizens and their family members a right of appeal against decisions under the Scheme. However, this must be guaranteed, regardless of whether there is a deal or not.
Access to Legal Advice
There is a significant shortage of immigration lawyers in Scotland, particularly for those living in rural areas. Whilst the UK Government claims that the EU Settlement Scheme is straightforward and simple, we know that many people require legal advice before and during application to ensure that they do not inadvertently lose their immigration status. The Home Office provide little leeway – an incorrect form filled in or one missing detail can lead to weeks or months of uncertainty. We need to do all that we can to mitigate against a hostile immigration system for our EU citizens.
We believe that every person who works to make a difference to Scottish communities and advance individual rights
should be valued. That includes our friends, colleagues and volunteers who have come from other EU countries
to live and work here. Scotland is stronger for their contribution.
While the third sector can do little to influence immigration policy, we believe that, as employers and employees, there is much we can do to encourage our EU friends and colleagues to stay and continue to make Scotland their home. It is crucial that we show solidarity with our European colleagues, making it absolutely clear that they are still very much welcome in Scotland, and to support them to continue doing the great work they do in our communities.
While the UK Government has introduced the Settled Status Scheme – which would afford EU citizens some certainty about their future in Scotland and the UK – only one third of EU citizens have opted to apply for this status. It seems reasonable to conclude that the complexity of the scheme and/or the perception that they are not valued has led many EU citizens to consider whether they wish to stay in this country. We want to provide assistance challenge that perception and encourage people across civil society to make clear their desire that EU citizens continue to make Scotland their home.
We know that voluntary sector organisations can find it difficult to take the time to grasp the intricacies of the ongoing Brexit debate. SCVO therefore created the #EUareValued campaign to help the third sector understand the latest developments, the changes affecting EU nationals, and to offer tools, advice and encouragement to ensure EU nationals continue to feel welcome and valued in Scotland. This campaign includes:
• Simplified advice on remaining in the UK
• Latest updates on immigration policy
• A guide to tackling hate crime
• Case studies outlining the vital contribution EU citizens make to society
• A quick quiz to assess EU citizens ‘next steps’
• Information on the impact on wider family units
• Links to relevant third party sites (including the Home Office and the3million)
• Twibbons and Posters to display support for the campaign
Scotland Declaration on Human Rights
Co-created by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Human Rights Consortium Scotland, Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Scot-land Declaration on Human Rights aims to send a clear message to policy makers, the public and the world that Scotland is actively committed to equality and human rights.
Launched to coincide with the 70th anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Scotland Declaration was open to support from civil society organisations who want equality and human rights to be at the heart of Scottish society.
Whatever the Brexit outcome, signatories want to protect our rights and want Scotland to be a world leader in rights
protection and implementation. The Declaration itself has four key pillars:
No going back
Human rights and equalities protections in law, policy and practice must not be reduced or regressed for any individual, group, community or sector of the population.
Human rights standards should be continually strengthened over time. Scotland must help to shape and adopt the highest international human rights and equalities standards.
Any changes to existing rights protections should be undertaken only with a fully transparent consultation process and the appropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny at all levels.
The people of Scotland must be engaged in a process of understanding what their rights are, how they are protected and what more can be done to protect their rights. Any significant change in the protection of rights must be based on this meaningful engagement.
To date, more than 170 civil society organisations have signed the Scotland Declaration on Human Rights. A full list of signatories (and their reason for signing) can be found here. The Declaration remains open to signatures from civil society organisations of all purposes and sizes.
The Scotland Declaration covers all of the rights and protections we take for granted. This, naturally, includes the rights and protections EU citizens living in Scotland enjoy. An erosion of EU citizens’ rights would therefore be at odds with the principles as laid out in the Scotland Declaration on Human Rights.