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LONDON – The United Kingdom has been accused of breaching the Brexit divorce agreement failing to quickly provide EU citizens with the essential documents they need to exercise their rights.
Campaigners say delays in getting candidacy certificates put EU nationals who moved to Britain before Brexit at risk of losing their jobs, housing and access to public services.
The withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU states that “a certificate of application for residence status must be issued immediately”.
The issue is expected to be discussed at Monday’s meeting of the specialist EU-UK Committee on Citizens’ Rights, which oversees the implementation of the divorce deal’s provisions on EU nationals in Britain. and British citizens in the EU.
The UK Home Office is currently working on a large number of applications submitted on paper, which normally take longer than online applications to resolve. The department says it must verify candidates’ identities before issuing them with nomination certificates, but Luke Piper, policy director at lobby group The3million, said his team has been helping many candidates who have been waiting for certificates since before. the summer.
“They say they have to confirm people’s identities before they send out a certificate, but that’s not what the agreement says,” Piper said. “It’s a pretty clear violation of the agreement.”
“I feel hopeless”
Rolanda Miguens, a Portuguese national who has lived in the UK since 1997, said she had been waiting for a certificate since June 2021, when she submitted a paper application to the Home Office with her Portuguese identity card and her birth certificate.
She said her contract as a project manager for the UK’s National Health Service had expired and that to get a new job with the NHS she had to show two pieces of identification along with the application certificate proving his right to work in Britain. .
But she cannot meet this requirement until the Interior Ministry returns her documents.
Miguens now lives alone after a divorce, and she said the delay had a huge financial and mental impact. The 57-year-old resident of South Godston, Surrey, said she could not afford to travel to Bournemouth, where her family lives, and could not visit her father at the Portugal because she did not have a valid travel ID.
“There are so many jobs for me, but I can’t work. I live in poverty. My house is falling apart and there is nothing I can do about it,” she said. “I feel hopeless, I feel useless. I don’t blame the Home Office at all. I believe the government is creating a hostile environment for EU citizens, so we are leaving.
POLITICO also spoke to a Nigerian woman who is eligible to apply for EU residency status in Britain because she is the only one caring for two children with British nationality. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of seeing her candidacy rejected, said she had been waiting for a candidacy certificate since June.
She is now at risk of losing the house she lived in for 10 years, which was rented by her late father. The rental company, she says, asks her to show them her certificate requesting the transfer of her late father’s rental agreement into her name.
His education also took a hit. She can’t take an exam for a cloud computing course she attended until she picks up her ID.
“It’s stressful. From June until now, it’s been seven months,” she said.
The Home Office said that in the case of paper applications to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUS), an application certificate will be issued once the application has been validated. The ministry added that there should be no delays as long as all identity documents are provided and social workers identify no further issues when reviewing the documents.
“There have already been more than 5.6 million status awards under the hugely successful EU Settlement Program, which we have developed to ensure that our friends and neighbors in the EU can get the status they need to stay here,” a Home Office spokesman said.
“EU citizens and their family members who were resident in the UK on 31 December 2020 and who have a pending application with the EUSS will continue to be able to travel in and out of the Kingdom. United as long as their application remains pending.”
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