Vulnerable EU citizens could lose their right to stay in Britain overnight if they miss the deadline to sign up for the new migration status or settled status next December.
Meanwhile, a new report shows that charities and voluntary organisations in the capital are currently ill-equipped to support them.
The report by civil rights group New Europeans is based on a survey of voluntary groups in London to assess their state of preparedness for Brexit. Click here to read the full report.
The work has been funded by Trust for London, an organisation which backs projects focused on the needs of at-risk groups.
It is clear from the survey that the third sector faces challenges in meeting the needs of EU citizens and their family members in the capital.
There are fears that tens of thousands of citizens will be left undocumented and so unable to access housing, labour markets and vital public services.
Commenting on the report, Tamara Flanagan OBE, Head of Projects at New Europeans said:
“For many EU citizens applying for settled status is far from straightforward. We met older citizens many of whom have been in the UK for over 60 years and don’t understand why they have to register. Some may need to renew documents, others don’t know where to start. They all need support but as our research shows, that support is not yet available on the scale required.”
Tamsin Koumis, who conducted the survey said:
“Our report highlights the gap between the work that needs to be done to support EU citizens in London and the capacity of the charities and voluntary sector to deliver that help.”
“The more vulnerable the communities, the more challenging and resource-intensive this work is. The shortfall in capacity will therefore be so much the greater.”
82% of respondents considered their clients to be at risk of not knowing about the scheme; not applying for it; or being refused the status.
People working in the third sector, when asked, felt as ill-informed as applicants about the process of applying."
One respondent, Jo Molle from ESSE (Emotional Support Service for Europeans) said:
“People are quite afraid of the whole process – users and service providers… You don't know how to help people if it's like shifting sands.”
Malene Bratlie, Co-ordinator of the Brexit Civil Society Alliance, said:
“Charities and the voluntary sector cannot solely be expected by the government to reach all vulnerable EU citizens and family members. The government must increase its efforts to ensure the scheme reaches as many people as possible.
As a starting point, the scheme should be made declaratory, to avoid thousands of EU citizens and family members becoming unlawfully resident, left without proper legal status and subject to the ‘hostile environment’.
Meanwhile, to reassure the many worried EU citizens the Home Office needs to provide a right of appeal regardless of the outcome of Brexit and give successful applicants physical proof of status”.
The survey findings will be discussed and debated at City Hall on Tuesday 19 November at a conference organised by New Europeans in partnership with the Brexit Civil Society Alliance.
The event will draw on the expertise of speakers from a range of organisations working with EU citizens in the capital.
It is estimated by the Home Office that over 70,000 Londoners will need support applying for the scheme.
New Europeans is a civil rights group promoting awareness of the rights of mobile EU citizens in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
The Brexit Civil Society Alliance is a UK wide alliance of 80+ charities, voluntary and working to ensure the third sector has a voice in the Brexit process.