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Immigration Bill strips EU citizens in UK of rights after Brexit

26 March 2019

Immigration Bill strips EU citizens living in the UK of their rights after Brexit with no guarantees to replace them, says UK Parliament Human Rights Committee.

Report also raises concerns about the uncertainty of the EU Settlement Scheme and acquired rights; and the rights of Irish Citizens flowing from the Common Travel Area.

The Immigration Bill strips EU citizens of their rights with no guarantees to replace them in UK law after Brexit, says a report published today by the UK Parliament Human Rights Committee chaired by Harriet Harman MP.

MPs and Peers propose series of significant amendments to Immigration Bill

The Bill in its current form says that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK would be removed after Brexit, and that reinstating these rights relies on the Home Secretary deciding to make secondary legislation. The Committee is concerned that ensuring citizen’s rights is therefore contingent on Ministers taking action and leaves families in a precarious situation when it comes to their housing, social security, and other free movement rights.
 
MPs and Peers propose a series of significant amendments to the Bill which aim to enshrine these protections and guarantees in the legislation (see wording in the report.) The Bill is due to have Report Stage soon.

Chair's comments

Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the UK Parliament Human Rights Committee said:

"Human Rights protections for EU citizens must not be stripped away after Brexit. EU Citizens living in this country right now will be understandably anxious about their futures. We’re talking about the rights of people who have resided in the UK for years, decades even, paying into our social security system or even having been born in the UK and lived here their whole lives. For example, the right to enter the UK and live here, to seek and get jobs, to access health care and to access education, are all up in the air.
 
"When it comes to rights, promising that everything will be worked out in the future is not good enough, it must be a guarantee, which is why the Committee have reinserted rights guarantees back into the wording of the Bill."

Concerns over EU Settlement Scheme

The Committee shares concerns expressed by other parliamentary Committees that the EU Settlement Scheme as currently proposed creates problems relating to the lack of physical proof of status.  They think more should be done to raise awareness of the EU Settlement Scheme and to assist individuals with applications.  However, they do not consider that these steps alone will address the concerns around a lack of physical proof of status.  The Home Office should ensure that physical proof of status is issued to those registered under the EU Settlement Scheme.  Getting this right is extremely important considering the similarities of some of these concerns with problems that have arisen with the treatment of the Windrush generation.
 
The Committee is also concerned at the ambiguity about the situation of those who miss the deadline for applications under the EU Settlement Scheme.  These could be individuals who have lived and worked in the UK their whole lives.  Their rights should not depend on subsequent registration with a scheme within a specific time limit.  The Committee considers that steps should be taken either to make provision for registration outside of the EU Settlement Scheme time limit, or to ensure that the entitlement to this status is not dependant on registration, for example with the registration solely being used to assist with physical proof of status. 
 
The Committee is concerned that vulnerable people are particularly at risk of missing the deadline because of difficulties knowing about and accessing the EU Settlement Scheme. 

Irish Citizens and the Common Travel Area

The UK Government, working with the Irish Government, should seek to further clarify rights flowing from the Common Travel Area with a view to keeping comparable arrangements in place for UK and Irish citizens as currently exist under EU law pre-Brexit.  This should include family reunification as well as rights relating to healthcare, social security, education and workers' rights.

Further information

Image: Creative Commons

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