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Lib Dems Urge Action to Help Surrey’s 5,000 EU Nationals ‘Living in Uncertainty’

Published on: 31 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 1 Apr, 2021

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Nearly 5,000 EU nationals in Surrey may be living with the fear they will not be allowed to stay in the UK.

In the wake of Brexit, EU nationals need to apply for settled or pre-settled status by June this year, otherwise they cannot continue to live, work or study in the UK, or access free healthcare, benefits or pensions.

At the end of last year, recent Home Office data show, 4,800 in the county were still waiting for a decision on their applications, and that was said to be taking its toll on their mental health.

Cllr Will Forster (Lib Dem, Woking South), told Surrey’s cabinet many were “living under a cloud of uncertainty and worry”, including the large contingent who work in the county’s health and social care.

While he had no evidence any of them were among the 4,800 he suspected there would be some.

He asked the county council yesterday (March 30), on behalf of Caterham Hill Cllr Chris Botten, the Lib Dem group leader, to “express sympathy and solidarity with EU nationals”, and write to the Home Office and Surrey’s MPs to make sure they are granted an automatic right to stay.

Cllr Forster said: “In the referendum, EU nationals were promised and reassured that Brexit wouldn’t hurt them, it wouldn’t affect their right to stay. That’s clearly not the case.

“Many EU citizens in Surrey are living under a cloud of uncertainty and worry, and coupled with the year of the pandemic, I think that adds to a mental health crisis and an unacceptable pressure on them.

“I don’t think that’s right for anyone, but particularly people who are integral to our communities.

“I can imagine without EU citizens, our NHS would have had an even worse year as well as our county council services, particularly social care. Could we honestly guarantee we could deliver our social services without EU nationals working with us, for us?

“EU nationals are our friends, our families, our neighbours and I think we need to stand up for them, and that’s why we want to keep fighting for their automatic right to stay.”

SCC leader Tim Oliver (Con, Weybridge) said: “The problem that I have with this is that there’s no evidence the process isn’t actually working. Nationally, of the 4.8 million applications only 0.9 per cent were refused.

“To the extent that Surrey residents believe their applications aren’t being processed speedily, I’m happy to pick that up with the ministers, but I’m afraid beyond that I think it’s a matter the national parties should lobby government on.”

This evening Cllr Forster added: “Following the Lib Dem motion, I am pleased the leader of the council has agreed to write to the Home Office urging them to expedite the processing of applications for EU citizens applying for settled status in the UK.”

There were 75,760 applications to the settlement scheme made across Surrey between August 2018 to December 2020, and 93.7 per cent of these have been dealt with.

Settled status was awarded to 42,170 applicants (59% of concluded applications). Pre-settled status was granted to 27,320 (38%), meaning they have not lived in the UK for five years in a row so will have to wait five years before they can apply for the right to stay permanently.

And 2% were left waiting for an answer, 4,800 people.

EU citizens and nonEU family members who were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 were eligible to apply. Those who had been living in the UK for more than five continuous years were eligible for settled status. Those resident for less than five were eligible for presettled status.

Evidence of identity and nationality was required and criminality checks conducted.

Where residence cannot be proven automatically the Home Office may require additional evidence.

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test One Response to Lib Dems Urge Action to Help Surrey’s 5,000 EU Nationals ‘Living in Uncertainty’

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 31, 2021 at 7:40 pm

    Nothing more than any other country demands of any person entering their country. So less of the hard done by please.

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