Here’s my latest column for the Ham & High, published on 30 June.
“30 June was the deadline for EU citizens living here in the UK to apply for settled status. With the Home Office themselves admitting to a 400,000 backlog in processing the huge volume of applications, it’s no surprise that my inbox is full of emails from anxious constituents waiting for news.
A 62 year old fearful about being separated from his family, a husband and wife who’ve had one of their applications accepted and the other rejected but they don’t understand why, a man who’s been calling the EU Settlement Scheme helpline dozens of times daily only to get a pre-recorded message saying the phone lines are too busy to answer. The list goes on.
Boris Johnson requested a deadline extension to try and resolve the Brexit sausage spat that’s affecting chilled meat deliveries to Northern Ireland. But when it comes to people, his Government has refused all calls for an extension to the EUSS deadline to help anxious EU citizens avoid a legal limbo.
For many months my Labour colleagues and I have been sounding the alarm over the potential for another Windrush-style scandal and back in May I personally wrote to the Immigration Minister to request an urgent meeting. I want to see the deadline extended, the backlog cleared and more support for those struggling to navigate the bureaucracy including children, care leavers, elderly people and victims of domestic violence. We know that 130,000 of those eligible for benefits still haven’t applied and only 1 in 3 children in care.
The Minister refused to meet and in public the Government does its usual act of brushing off concerns with vague platitudes that it will be all right. That’s no reassurance from a PM who told Northern Irish businesses to “bin” customs declarations forms whilst signing an agreement that required border checks and who has spent the five years since the referendum dishonestly evading responsibility for the consequences of his Brexit. Our creaking NHS certainly hasn’t seen any sign of his £350 million a week.
EU citizens are our friends, our neighbours and they have contributed so much to our community. They deserve better from this Government.”