"EU citizens are valued members of our community. They are our friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues. It is vital that every single one of them has the opportunity and support they need to stay in the UK after Brexit." Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council
I am writing to you as Leader of Cambridge City Council to request that the Government urgently extends the deadline for applying for the EU Settlement Scheme beyond 30th June 2021, and my council requests a year extension to 30 June 2022. Disruption caused to the lives of Cambridge and wider UK residents from the Covid-19 pandemic is severe and continuing and this has also reduced the impact of hardworking support organisations for UK based EU citizens, that are crucial in raising awareness of the scheme and supporting EU citizen residents to apply.
Our City Council is hugely grateful to these charities and organisations working so hard in such difficult circumstances to help people secure pre-settled or settled status. Many of these organisations, including those funded by Government, need the time and access to carry on this work through 2021 and their outreach that will only reach its full potential in the months immediately following the pandemic being under reasonable control.
Otherwise, the lack of support services necessitated by the pandemic will deny the rights of effective settlement applications to too many of the most vulnerable EU Cambridge citizens, including older people, those who are digitally excluded, require English language support, and those with complex cases. This currently leaves potentially several thousand Cambridge EU residents unable to make an effective, successful application by 30 June 2021, and they are at severe risk of becoming unlawfully resident in the UK.
I also write to urge the Government to ensure that the option of physical proof of status is available to those who have Pre-settled and Settled status, as recommended by EU citizens’ rights organisation “the3million” and other migrant rights charities in the UK. Physical documents offer residents a crucial level of security in their legal status that cannot be provided by digital status alone, particularly for people in more precarious or short-term accommodation or employment, or those digitally excluded who will be unable to view and prove their status online. As such, will the Government please provide assurances to EU citizens in Cambridge and across the UK that physical proof of status will be available?
In Cambridge, it is possible that 1 in 4 residents are EU citizens. We simply do not know, 1 in 5 residents have already applied for settled or pre-settled status. EU citizens are valued members of our community. They are our friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues. It is vital that every single one of them has the opportunity and support they need to stay in the UK after Brexit. If they are unable to involve their citizenship status, that will add pressure on councils to provide unplanned support, e.g. people who cannot work legally are more likely to become homeless, or be evicted.
In conclusion, I request in the strongest terms that the deadline for applying for the EU Settlement Scheme be urgently extended a year to 30th June 2022, and that the Government grants to EU citizen support organisations also be extended a year too.
I and my council look forward to your response. The lives of potentially thousands of our residents depends on this.
Cllr Lewis Herbert
Leader of Cambridge City Council