EU citizens in the UK have to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to stay in the UK. Barbara Drozdowicz (Eastern European Resource Centre) says around three-quarters of them have yet to apply – and Poles, and people living outside England, have particularly low rates.
The most recent release of statistics about applications for EU settled status bring some cause for optimism. One million of the EU citizens living in the UK have applied, which is certainly positive. But I advise keeping those bubbles in the cooler for now.
One million is a very decent result if we assume that around three million people from elsewhere in the EU are living in Britain, and if it stays this way. Almost certainly, however, there are between 3.5 and four million, and that’s without all our invisible EU brethren: unpaid carers, the newly arrived, the elderly cared for by family. And regardless of how final the 31 October deadline for free movement sounds, there is plenty of time for latecomers to arrive – panicking families bringing relatives to take care of them, students starting the new academic year.
Who makes up that million? In terms of the population living in the UK, nationals from all the Baltic countries, Bulgarians, Romanians and possibly Germans amount to fewer people than the number of Poles. Does that matter? Well, yes it does. Members of a community talk to each other. Applications benefit from positive reinforcement. If a community already has a high application rate, it’s very likely that a majority of its members will follow suit through peer pressure, a reduction in mistrust, greater confidence in the ‘system’ and a network of support. But if they don’t, the likelihood is that they will lag behind and the rate will slow. Look at Poles, the black sheep of the EUSS process. They account for almost a third of all EU citizens in the UK but have an application rate of less than 20%.
People from the EU are a generous lot. We opened our hearts and toolboxes to all countries of the Kingdom. And yet, if the EUSS stats are anything to go by, we are all in England. Why? Maybe it’s poor immigration advice provision across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Maybe it’s insufficient information delivered by the government. If we had an insight into the distribution of applications in terms of rural versus urban areas, the situation would be clearer. But two things are evident: EUSS advice and assistance is in great demand, and a detailed information campaign led by the Home Office is sorely needed.
Ideally, we need to extend the EUSS deadline, provide further resources for communities to reach out and support applications, and review the immigration advice regulation to level the playing field across regions and expand capacity. Otherwise we risk discovering that December 2020 has passed and a million people have yet to apply.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of LSE Brexit, nor LSE.
Barbara Drozdowicz is the CEO of the Eastern European Resource Centre.