Deadlines, delays, despair

What kind of a country do we live in when, having stripped people of their freedom of movement, the Government sets further arbitrary deadlines that have the potential to devastate the lives of those most directly affected? Twitter thread of Richard Haviland @rfhaviland

It’s not just EU nationals affected by these deadlines – it’s UK nationals too. Right now, if UK nationals living in EU countries decide to return, all family members who are non-UK nationals will have to apply for permits to join them by no later than 29 March.

Only once they’ve secured that permit and are in the UK can those family members then apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, to be allowed to stay in this country. Those applying for family permits are waiting at least 12 weeks, and in some cases over a year – despite a commitment in the Withdrawal Agreement that, in such circumstances, visas should be issued by the host country “free of charge and on the basis of an accelerated procedure.”

While they’re waiting, unless they pay extra, they have to give up their passports to the Home Office. There’s no chance of travelling anywhere else while they wait for a response.

People have been told that applications are being dealt with in strict date order. No deadline is given by the Home Office. No commitment to reply by a certain date. No targets or indicators by which the Home Office can measure its own performance.

As this letter from @the3milliion to the Home Office highlights, these long delays have a very real effect on people’s lives.

While they wait for the Home Office to respond, they may find themselves without a job, without rented accommodation, or forced to separate, sometimes from their own children.

You’d think that, having removed freedom of movement, ministers would go all out to deliver a proper service to the millions whose lives are directly affected. You’d think they’d commit to seeing applications were processed swiftly.

You’d think that ministers would commit to a responsive customer service. You’d think they’d resolve to err on the side of empathy and compassion.

You’d think that, when ministers set an arbitrary deadline, they’d match it with resources to cope with the inevitable spike in demand.

You’d think all that but you’d be wrong. If the Government had set out to make people as anxious as possible, it couldn’t have done a better job of it.

Many UK nationals will come back now, forced into a decision by an arbitrary, unnecessary deadline. Under the rights they’ve had stolen, they might have delayed that decision until later. But if they don’t come now, they will lose the right to bring their families in the future.

Others who might one day have come back now won’t. But they may one day find themselves, say, forced to choose between coming home to care for elderly or sick parents, or staying put in their new country of residence because they want to be with their partners and children.

The Government likes to think it’s been generous with this deadline. Far from it. Why have a deadline at all? None of us can know how our futures will look. It’s callous of ministers to force people to make these choices now.

This is just one category of those affected by the loss of freedom of movement. But let’s not forget all the others. I recently wrote for @euromovescot about the vast numbers of EU nationals still to receive any form of status from the Home Office.

It told a story of lives turned upside down, of constant stress, even of high levels of homelessness. And the picture hasn’t improved – it’s got worse, as this thread (below) by @the3million explains.

📢 Updated EU Settlement Scheme statistics are out. In January, we are seeing:

👉 the highest % to date of refused, withdrawn or invalid applications – a whopping 34%
👉 continued low processing rate; the backlog of 315,000 applications will take 24 months to clear at this rate

— the3million (@the3million) February 10, 2022

EU Settlement Scheme Applications
Source: the3million

It’s so easy to allow things to be normalised, especially after six years of all this madness. But we mustn’t do that.

This is ministers’ responsibility. This is the responsibility of @BorisJohnson @pritipatel @kevin_j_foster @ukhomeoffice @Number10

Having so disrupted people’s lives by removing their freedom of movement, they have a moral responsibility to minimise any further damage. We should keep reminding them of that until they do the right thing by every person they have wronged. It’s the least we should expect.

In the meantime, please sign this petition of @the3million calling for a national document checking service, to prevent loss in the post, and to prevent people from being forced to part from their passports.

It would be one small way to relieve anxiety.