The impending deadline for applications for EU residents and ‘frontier workers’ to remain in the UK should be removed urgently, Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA and Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MP have said.
They have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel, urging them to scrap the deadline for applications, currently scheduled for June 30. Despite promises before the EU referendum there would be no change to EU citizens’ rights post-Brexit, the UK Government introduced the EU Settlement Scheme, requiring EEA citizens and their families to apply for either settled or pre-settled status. Meanwhile, a Frontier Workers Scheme opened in December 2020, which requires EEA individuals resident in the Republic of Ireland to apply to maintain their right to work in Northern Ireland.
“Over five million applications have been made to these schemes but in the absence of accurate data on how many residents are eligible for both, and ahead of a census next month, it would be premature and counterproductive to proceed with a closing date in June,” said Mrs Long.
“The current deadline was established prior to the pandemic and recent analysis by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants showed a third of care workers surveyed hadn’t heard of the Settlement Scheme. There is a strong possibility hundreds of thousands of residents – many key workers – face unwittingly becoming undocumented in just four months.”
“There is a particular concern about the lack of a public information campaign about the frontier worker scheme,” added Dr Farry.
“Many businesses and eligible individuals living in border communities are unaware of their right to work in the UK. Removing the deadline for both schemes and granting automatic status for workers would mean the Government could stand by its promise citizens’ rights would be upheld.
“Northern Ireland is made up of people from many different backgrounds, working to improve our society, and we must reject any attempted rollback of our rights. I look forward to replies from the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, and hope they are receptive to this suggestion.”