Defend democracy and civil rights

We have received an urgent request from the3million’s Young Europeans Network to support two campaigns which they are currently running.

They are seeking your support for two open letters – one on The Elections Bill and one on The Nationality and Borders Bill.  Please see details of these two campaigns, in the3million’s own words, in the two boxes below.

Organisations working in the immigration and democracy sectors have expressed deep concerns about both Bills, but they can both be improved to bring benefits to EU citizens and migrants in the UK. 

the3million are asking you to add your name to each statement in support of their amendments and campaigns.  With your voice, we can show MPs, Peers, and key stakeholders that these are issues worth paying attention to and that the proposals are workable and desirable. 

Obviously, we would ask that you inform members of your groups and networks about these requests as quickly as possible.

The deadline for adding names is Guy Fawkes Day, Friday 5 November.

Elections Bill: Residence-Based Voting

The Elections Bill seeks to reform voter eligibility of EU citizens in the UK.  With the UK’s departure from the EU, voting rights needed to be reassessed.  However, we believe the Government’s proposals are a missed opportunity to IMPROVE voting rights.

At present, all EU citizens can vote in local elections in England and Northern Ireland – alongside British, Irish, and Commonwealth citizens.  The Elections Bill proposes that only most EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status will continue having that right to vote.  This means, for example, a German citizen entering the UK today under the New Immigration System will not have that right to vote.  Voting rights for EU citizens who enter the UK without the EU Settlement Scheme will depend on the UK securing bilateral agreements with other EU countries.  Currently, this has only been secured with Poland, Luxembourg, Spain, and Portugal.

In Scotland and Wales, EU citizens’ voting rights do not need to change, because all qualifying foreign residents can already vote in these devolved elections.

We believe we should extend, not restrict, the franchise.  The Our Home Our Vote campaign asks that all residents, no matter where they were born, have the right to vote in all UK local elections.  We have an amendment drafted for the Bill and hope to table it at Report Stage.

If you also believe that if you live somewhere, use public services, and pay council tax, you should have a democratic say, sign our open letter here, with your name, your job title, and your organisation.

You can find out more about this issue and our proposal here.

NATIONALITY AND BORDERS BILL:
THE COMPREHENSIVE SICKNESS INSURANCE LEGACY

Part 1 of the Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to end anomalies in British Nationality Law.

One long-standing issue affecting EU citizens’ path to British citizenship is that of Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI). 

EU Free Movement law states that people can move to other EU member states to live, work, and study, but if they are studying or self-sufficient, they need ‘Comprehensive Sickness Insurance’ so as not to be a burden on a country’s healthcare system.  EU citizens in the UK, however, were never explicitly asked to hold CSI and were always able to access the NHS on an equal footing to British citizens – since they paid tax and VAT to fund the NHS just like British citizens.

CSI has been retained in various EU laws carried over following the UK’s departure from the EU.  The requirement still comes up when assessing someone’s past lawful residence in UK, for example when:

  • applying to naturalise as a British citizen;
  • determining whether a baby born in the UK, to parents who have settled in the UK having lived here for five years, is British;
  • applying for EU Settlement Scheme status as a dependent family member of an EU citizen who is also British.

An obscure, and now obsolete, requirement prevents EU citizens from accessing British citizenship.  Learning that CSI will be an obstacle also comes as a shock to many who believed they were following all necessary rules in the UK. 

We ask that the CSI legacy be fixed through an amendment to the Bill. Our amendment was tabled by Bambos Charalambous MP and now needs your support.  You can learn more about this here.

If you believe that the CSI issue should be fixed for an easier and fairer path to citizenship, sign our open letter here with your name, your job title, and your organisation.

Cases are increasingly more complex, says Citizens Rights Project in its first newsletter
At the beginning of September, we received an urgent referral.

A French national studying at Glasgow University had been held back at the border on the basis that her late EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) application was still pending. This EU citizen was wrongly told that they could only enter the UK as a visitor, and that they would have to leave the country after a week and wait for the decision outwith the UK.

This story has a happy ending thanks to the quick intervention of Settled and Citizens Rights Project -although not without the unnecessary stress of our client, who had their rights violated because a police officer at the Border did not have the correct information and/or training.

Unfortunately, this is just one example of many. The lack of accurate data since the scheme was released, the tight timescale to reach out to millions affected by this new migration status, and frequent and unexpected ad hoc changes introduced by the Home Office, has led to knowledge gaps among employers, border police, local government workers and others. The result is that some people are wrongly detained at the border, losing job opportunities, and having problems accessing the health service and claiming benefits, just to name a few.

Fortunately, we are pleased to announce that the Scottish Government and the Home Office has extended our funding to work with EU citizens until March 2022. We have also had confirmation that the Home Office will be continuing to provide grant support to our partners Feniks, of which we receive part for outreach work with EU citizens in Scotland.

On top of this, we have partnered up with our sister organisation Settled, to open a Level 2 support service in Scotland, thanks to funding from the Justice Together Initiative. We are hoping to announce soon when we will be accepting referrals. 

We can therefore, continue providing our EUSS information, advice, and support services in Scotland. To make sure these services are used by, and reach those who most need it, we need everyone’s support.

We are calling on all front line workers in local authorities, consulates, housing associations, third sector organisations, as well as employers, and any working at a grassroots level – you can help us identify citizens who are still yet to apply to the EU Settlement, are awaiting on a decision, who want to bring their family members or who struggle to access, update or provide proof of their status.