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Politics

Lords hear pleas for EU citizens to get physical proof of settled status

Approved settled status applications are digital only, making it hard for some citizens to prove their right to remain

The House of Lords has backed calls for EU citizens to receive physical proof of their right to remain in the UK after Brexit, a demand of campaign groups concerned by those who may be left behind when it comes to accessing resources online.

Activist group The3million, a 2020 Big Issue Changemaker, has been lobbying peers for months through their Denied My Back Up campaign to allow EEA citizens living in the UK to request a physical document proving their right to remain.

The3million co-founder Maike Bohn said: “We urge the government to try and walk in the shoes of those fleeing domestic violence, of people with no or limited access to the internet and electronic devices, of those seeking employment and housing.

“This compassionate, sensible and non-political amendment asks for a minor change that would hugely benefit the elderly, vulnerable and those who lack IT literacy.”

The campaign from The3million, supported by The Big Issue, triggered a vote on the amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords on Tuesday night. A majority of 106 peers backed the proposal, meaning it moves to the House of Commons for a vote from MPs.

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The news will be favourable for people like a Nicoleta D., a single mother, working in a hotel in London who spoke with The3million.

She paid a third party to support her make a settled status application in 2019. She was granted pre-settled status and she has the Home Office letter received via email confirming her status. But she was not aware at all about the digital proof of her status or the details required to access it.

The3million said Nicoleta’s English is good enough fro work but she can’t sustain a phone conversation and she only has access to a mobile phone to make calls and using social media. These issues are preventing her from attempting to access her digital status and from contacting the EUSS Settlement Resolution Centre for support.

The3million co-founder Maike Bohn said: “We should not conduct an experiment with the rights of millions of people. Any transition to a digital-only system should be slow, with the option of a physical documents for years while the system beds in. This is what Australia has done.”

However, there was some opposition to the amendment from Baroness Susan Williams who represented the government in the debate.

The peer cited costs as a reason not to provide a physical document as the campaign asking for proof to be available on request.

Baroness Williams said: “If only two per cent of people, the over-65s, were to ask for a physical document, the cost would be several millions—we estimate about £5 million. But I am relying on the 3million group, which thinks that 89 per cent of all EEA citizens will want this physical document.”

In the same parliamentary sitting, Lord Alf Dubs’ amendment to the EU withdrawal bill was also successful in gaining the support of peers.

We urge the government to try and walk in the shoes of those fleeing domestic violence, of people with no or limited access to the internet and electronic devices, of those seeking employment and housing

A total of 317 Lords backed Lords Dubs call for unaccompanied refugees to be reunited with their families while 223 voted against the plans.

The Kindertransport veteran was a Big Issue cover star in January as he battled to stop the Dubs Scheme being unpicked by the EU Withdrawal Bill. His scheme was setup following an amendment to the Immigration Act in April 2016 which promised to bring 3,000 lone refugee children to the UK.

Addressing the Lords ahead of the vote, Lord Dubs said: “In my experience, human beings are able to put up with very difficult conditions if there is some hope at the end of the road for them, but where there is no hope, there is only despair. Refugees and people wanting to claim asylum will do very dangerous things to find safety. This amendment will give hope to many child refugees in Europe.”

Images: The3million

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