With the June deadline looming for citizens of the European Union (EU) to apply for UK settled status, new figures show that more than five million EU nationals have applied for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The figure is thought to be around double the number of EU citizens believed to be living in Britain prior to the Brexit referendum.
Home Office data seemingly shows a discrepancy between the number of people applying for the EUSS and the estimated number of EU citizens living in the UK before the 2016 Brexit vote. Ahead of the 30 June deadline, the latest data shows that 5.4 million EU nationals have applied for UK settled status.
Of the 5.4 million that have applied, 4.9 million have been granted settled status in the UK. Meanwhile, the Home Office recently launched a ‘final call’ campaign, urging EU citizens living in the UK to apply for the EUSS.
The Minister for Future Borders and UK Immigration, Kevin Foster, said: “The government is committed to making sure everybody eligible for the scheme can apply, including those who are the most vulnerable or need extra support.”
Discrepancies in the figures have been widely publicised. In 2016, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), recorded 3,182,000 EU nationals living in Britain, representing approximately 5% of the UK’s population.
However, chairman of the Commons Liaison Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkins welcomed the news of a higher number of applicants. He said: “It is a welcome surprise that so many EU nationals want to stay in Brexit Britain.”
“But it underlines why Priti Patel and the new permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft are substantially strengthening the capability of the department to deal with challenges like this,” Sir Jenkins added.
Border Force condemned
News of more than five million EUSS applicants comes after UK immigration agents for the Border Force were blasted for detaining EU citizens who arrive in the UK without the correct paperwork.
The Home Office has since notified officials to, where appropriate, ‘grant EU nationals UK immigration bail’ instead if they are refused entry to the UK.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “While international travel is disrupted due to the pandemic, we have updated our guidance to clarify that overseas nationals, including EU citizens, who have been refused entry to the UK and are awaiting removal, should be granted immigration bail, where appropriate.”
“Now freedom of movement has ended, people from across the EU can continue to visit the UK, but those coming to work or study must meet our entry requirements and we urge them to check before travelling,” the spokesperson added.
Financial incentives to leave
News of a higher number of EUSS applicants than expected follows attempts made by the Home Office to encourage EU citizens to leave the UK using financial incentives. Reports claimed that EU nationals have been offered the option of a ‘voluntary returns scheme’, with the Home Office offering to cover the cost of flights and handout £2,000 for resettlement.
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