Dear Sheryll Murray
I understand that Parliament is debating the Citizens Rights in the EU Withdrawal Arrangement Bill tomorrow and I wish to draw your attention to some issues regarding the Settled Status Scheme.
Remembering that Vote Leave promised there would be no change to the rights of EU citizens when we leave the EU, the Settled Status reneges on this promise in many regards.
One of the most problematic areas is that citizens must apply rather than register.
Many people have found gathering the evidence onerous, especially people who have had career breaks for families or illness.
Response times can sometimes be lengthy which causes stress.
Many have been given been given Pre-Settled status rather than Settled Status incorrectly.
The process is highly digitalised with few processing centres so the most vulnerable will have the most difficulty accessing the process.
If you refer to the briefing paper https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8772#fullreport it is estimated that 30% of EU27 citizens currently living in the UK will miss the deadline. This would mean thousands of people will be at risk of deportation. Can you give reassurances that, for example, an elderly person with no relatives with dementia is not deported because they have not got Settled Status?
These issues would be solved if the system is a registration rather than an application.
People are not given a paper proof. In fact, they must log into a website. This means that they rely on the server being operational 100% of the time. A failure in the system could impact tenancies, jobs, health provision and so on. If there is a problem with accessing the online proof, the helpline is a premium phone line which is expensive. This adds insult to injury.
I have recently discovered that people with Settled Status are required to update their personal details for the rest of their lives. This includes passport renewal details. However, despite the application being highly digitalised, the only way this can be updated is by sending the passport by post! I have already heard of one person who has had to visit elderly parents urgently and so cannot send off their passport. If this person was in this position post Dec2020, what would happen at the border upon re-entry to the UK?
Can you please check this and find out if this part of the system is being digitalised also?
A simple solution to all these problems would be a hard copy proof of status.
Another issue is that people applying for Settled Status must agree to very sensitive data being shared with third parties, including ones out of the country. Considering the various data scandals, people are rightly very nervous about sharing highly sensitive data in a situation not protected by GDPR rules. People should be given more clarification about where their data is going and provisions for the security of the data with those parties, why it is needed and under what circumstances it will be shared.
I have highlighted some of the issues. There are many consequences to the current system, including how people feel. These are people who have lived here for many years and built their lives here based on reciprocal treaty rights. These are people who were promised that their rights will not change. However they are being made to apply in a system with problems for a status that gives them reduced rights. Despite the official line being ‘ EU citizens are welcome here’, the act of having to: Apply (and often having to wait a long time for a response); Provide sensitive information not secured under GDPR for the rest of their lives; Access a server to prove status rather than being provided with a hard copy proof, do not make people feel welcome!
Please raise these issues tomorrow in the debate and please push for humanity, common sense and compassion to be written into the legislation of Settled Status.