Thousands of Latino EU citizens living in the UK are at risk of losing their immigration status as the EU settlement Scheme (EUSS) closes next Wednesday, a migrants rights advocacy group has warned.
With only five days to the EUSS final deadline, which allows EU citizens living in the UK to remain in the country, there could be over 130,000 people who have yet to apply.
Latin Americans who are EU nationals or relatives to one may be overrepresented in the count, as they face language and technological barriers to completing their applications, according to Brixton-based campaign group Indoamerican Refugee Migrant Organization (IRMO).
IRMO director Lucía Vinzón said: “We are extremely worried about the number of people who are going to suddenly find themselves undocumented and exposed to the policies of the hostile environment.
“They will be left with no access to vital services such as healthcare, and they may lose their jobs and their homes.”
According to IRMO, around 250,000 Latin Americans live in the UK, but these are not official figures, as the community is only recognised in four boroughs in the country: Lambeth, Southwark, Islington and Hackney.
A report from Queen Mary University based on a 2011 study provides the most up-to-date figures on the community.
“Recognition is fundamental to get an appropriate picture of how many people are signing up to the settlement scheme and who is actually accessing these services,” Vinzón explained, highlighting the difficulty of estimating how many people still need to apply to the EUSS.
IRMO has supported over 2,000 applications, and continues to help applicants through face-to-face and remote workshops.
Vinzón noted that during these sessions the campaigners are still meeting people who either didn’t know they needed to sign up to the scheme or could not manage to sign up on their own because of technical difficulties.
Severe delays in processing the applications may mean that even for those who have requested settled status, a period without regular status may ensue between 30th June and the time when they finally receive their approval.
In a letter sent last month to Home Secretary Priti Patel, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood Helen Hayes said: “I also understand that the closure of Home Office appointment centres in 2020 has meant family members of EU citizens have been unable to progress their applications.
“I am concerned that this will cause many people to become undocumented and lose their right to reside and work and become at risk of destitution, detention or deportation.”
IRMO continues to call for the Government to extend the application deadline to ensure no one is left without regular immigration status.
Read more about the EUSS and how to apply before 30th June.