European citizens living locally are urged to prepare for Brexit
More than half of European Union (EU) citizens living in Merton have yet to apply for Settled Status to keep their right to remain in the country after Brexit.
The latest official figures, from the Government’s quarterly statistics up until June this year, also show that around a third of those that have applied nationally are being refused a full right to remain.
Merton council is urging all residents from EU countries who want to stay in the country if it leaves the EU, to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible.
The Government has said all EU nationals must apply for Settled Status to keep their right to remain in the country and secure their rights to vote, get free medical care and welfare benefits.
Figures reveal that of the 25,000 EU citizens living in Merton less than half have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The council says it is concerned about the impact on the local community if they are not given full status. It is also worried about the number of applicants nationally who are being refused full status and being given only the reduced pre-settled status instead.
The council has commissioned specialist services to give residents free support and advice on the scheme. Residents can access free help to make EUSS applications from either Citizens Advice Merton and Lambeth or South West London Law Centres.
The council is also flagging up that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the Government have said the deadline for applying to EU Settlement Scheme will be brought forward to 31 December 2020.
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Mark Allison, said: “We consider that everyone who lives in Merton is helping to make it a great place for families. We’re concerned that our European friends, neighbours and family members in Merton are not getting the Settled Status their work in our community deserves.
“We do not want our community broken up, and are urging all residents who want to remain living here to apply as soon as possible. If they miss the deadline and Brexit takes place they may no longer be able to legally live here and contribute to our great community.
“We understand there are already some delays at the Home Office for more complex cases and are very concerned about applications being turned down or given the incorrect status.
“We don’t want our neighbours and loved ones to lose the right to remain here, their right to vote or their rights to free medical care and welfare benefits and are offering free specialist advice services to support those who need help with their application.
“They have helped make our borough a great place for everyone to live in, and it is only right that we are here to help them when they need it too.”
Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Councillor Paul Kohler, slammed the Government for refusing to guarantee every EU citizen’s right to stay in the UK after Brexit.
“I am extremely concerned for the thousands of EU citizens here in Merton who are facing uncertainty over their futures, and I fully support Merton Council’s efforts in urging all EU nationals to apply for settled status as soon as possible.
“However, there is no point ignoring the real issue here: this Conservative government is actively making it as difficult as possible for EU citizens who have made their homes here to stay.
“This is a callous act from an immoral government, and one which runs totally contrary to Britain’s liberal values of openness to all.
“As it stands thousands of people here in Merton - some of whom have lived in the borough for decades, raised families here and made significant contributions to their local communities - could find themselves at risk of being told to leave the UK as a direct result of this government’s actions.
“I call on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do the decent thing and immediately guarantee every single EU citizen’s right to remain in the UK.”
Councillor Kohler also called upon Wimbledon’s MP, Stephen Hammond, to join him in standing up to the Government.
“The many thousands of EU citizens living in Wimbledon deserve an MP who will stand up for them. I hope Stephen Hammond will join me in condemning this government’s actions. No one, wherever they come from, should be forced to live under a cloud of uncertainty as a result of the actions of a senseless government.”
October 16, 2019