The EU Settlement Scheme: Another Windrush Scandal in the Making – In My View Column for the South London Press

Apr 30, 2021 | Articles

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Bell Ribeiro-Addy Shadow Immigration Minister

I’ve lost count of how many times the Government has apologised for its appalling treatment of the Windrush Generation.  Sadly, these warm words have not been matched by action.

Their Windrush Compensation Scheme has become a scandal in itself, criticised from all corners for its slow speed, complex documentation process and the high burden of proof it places on often elderly victims. Two years since it opened, less than a quarter of those who have applied for compensation have received any and less than 1% of the £500 million set aside for victims has been paid out. 

Worse still, they continue to learn the wider lessons of the Windrush Scandal, which saw people denied drivers’ licences, fired from jobs, frozen out of bank accounts, made homeless, and even deported in some cases.

Far from working to ensure there can never be a repeat of this suffering, the Government’s treatment of EU citizens is all but ensuring one. Last summer’s Immigration Bill marked the second time in a decade that they have ripped up an entire group of people’s rights without care for the consequences. 

The Home Office is no more known for its efficiency than it is for its compassion. The latest statistics on the EU Settlement Scheme show that with less than two months to go until the final deadline, there are still at least 320,000 EU citizens waiting to hear their fate, with over 40,000 in South London alone. 

And that’s just of the people who’ve been able to apply. One survey found that as many as one in seven EU employees were unaware they needed to regularise their status, with really worrying implications for the UK care sector and the 113,000 EU citizens working in it. 

But if there’s one thing that sums up the continued cruelty of this Government’s immigration policy, it’s the plight of EU children in care. Thanks to the way the Government set up the Settlement scheme, the majority of these 3,700 children are not even registered for Settled Status, let alone on a pathway to citizenship. The Government is condemning these children to the same dismal experiences as the Windrush Generation.

There is a very easy way out of the mess that is the EU Settlement Scheme: automatic settled status for anyone resident in the UK as of December 2020 and giving children who grow up in the UK a lifelong right to register for citizenship for free. 

Sadly, this Government’s attachment to hard-line immigration policies and driving down net migration means both these common-sense approaches are off the table.  The fight continues for an immigration system that treats people as human beings no matter where they, or their parents, were born.

This article was first published in the 30th April 2021 print edition of the South London Press.