Brexit: Supporting Vulnerable Europeans
Brexit: Supporting Vulnerable Europeans
By Lidia Estevez Picon, Migration Policy and Services Coordinator at the Connection at St Martin's
We do not know exactly how many homeless European migrants there are in the UK. However, we do know that in the last quarter there were 874 European nationals seen rough sleeping in London, about 35% of the total London rough sleeping population according to latest figures. There is uncertainty around how Brexit will unfold and what the final legal details of a new status for European Union (EU) nationals will look like. However, we do know that Brexit will likely present additional challenges for EU homeless migrants and that they need us now more than ever.
Over the last two months the government has published important documents shedding some light on how, and under what circumstances, EU nationals will be able to apply for a new form of status after Brexit. Though the final rules are still subject to Parliament approval. As the particulars can be quite technical and there is still a degree of uncertainty, this blog will outline some of the most relevant aspects and focus on how we, as frontline workers, can help our EU clients prepare for the future.
The planned UK exit date from the EU is 29 March 2019. However, between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020 there will be an ‘implementation period’ during which EU citizens’ rights will not change. EU citizens, even those arriving during the transition period, will have the following period to apply for the new status: from the full opening of the new application process (likely to be around 29 March 2019) until 30 June 2021.
SETTLED AND PRE-SETTLED STATUS
EU citizens and their family members who, by 31 December 2020, have been resident in the UK continuously for five years will be eligible for ‘settled status’. This type of status appears to be similar to the current ‘indefinite leave to remain’ or ‘permanent residence’. EU citizens and their family members who arrive by 31 December 2020, but will not yet have been resident in the UK continuously for five years, will be eligible for “pre-settled status”. These citizens will be able to stay in the UK until they have reached the five-year threshold for settled status. The government’s intention is for EU citizens and their family members with settled status or pre-settled status to keep the same access as they currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK.
THE APPLICATION AND HOW TO SUPPORT CLIENTS
It is very likely that whatever the final rules are, EU citizens will need:
• to provide proof of identity and nationality.
o Vulnerable Europeans might need support to recognise the importance of having ID (also for legal work, rent, etc) and apply as soon as possible;
o To contact and liaise with their consulate to get an appointment and obtain some flexibility if they lack documents or the income to pay the fee;
o To help them raise the funds for the fee if there is no fee-waiver. See more here.
• To show five years continuous residence in the UK- for settle status- or current residence in the UK-for pre-settle status. At the moment it appears that EU nationals would only need to show residence and not that they were in employment or had comprehensive sickness insurance. However, the default position might be for the Home Office to carry out automated checks of data held by Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pension (DWP).
o Many homeless EU nationals will not have those types of records and will need support to obtain alternative evidence. This might include a letter from a UK charity confirming the applicant’s physical interaction with them.
o Homeless EU nationals might also find it difficult to store documents that would help them evidence their residence and to recognise what documents would be useful. See this checklist and this
• To self-declare their criminal convictions- the Home Office will carry out its own checks.
o Homeless EU nationals with criminal records will likely need support to access immigration advice. More information available here.
• To pay a fee of £65 for adults and £32.5 for children under 16 years old.
o Homeless EU nationals often have no income and might need financial support if there is fee-waiver. Services might want to encourage clients to start saving money or to look for grants or existing non-restricted funding that could be directed to this new need.
To help homelessness agencies in these changing times, The Connection at St Martin’s has updated Homeless Link’s guidance on supporting EEA nationals. The new resources provide an overview of key information, principles and good practice in response to EEA nationals experiencing homelessness. They include additional suggestions on how to prepare your clients and services for Brexit.
City Hall has recently published information on micro-grant funding of up to £2,000 to community groups and small civil society organisations to provide information and advice to vulnerable European Londoners. The deadline for applications is 20 August.
The government has recently published some resources including leaflets and posters on the new EU settlement scheme. Some have criticized this move as details are not final, but they could be useful resources to raise awareness of the new application.
For updates on the new scheme, please check the government website. It is also possible to register for email updates.
A new report on the possible impact of Brexit on homelessness has been published recently.
I have been working with The Connection at St Martin’s for over two years to coordinate the charity’s response to the challenges of migrant homelessness. Brexit might make it more even more challenging for this client group, but it is also an opportunity to empower clients to ensure they are informed and have more control over their future.