Thousands apply in North Lanarkshire to stay post-Brexit

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Thousands of EU citizens in North Lanarkshire have applied to live and work in the UK after Brexit, according to the Home Office.

The EU Settlement Scheme allows resident EU and Swiss citizens, plus those from the European Economic Area countries, to apply to continue living and working in the UK.

The Government has hailed the process as a success, saying it has received more than three million applications so far.

But EU citizens’ rights campaign group, the3million, says even a small percentage of individuals missing out means misery for thousands.

Official figures show that 4,690 applications were made in North Lanarkshire up to the end of last year, of which 4,210 were finalised.

Of those, 2,930 applicants were granted settled status, meaning they have a permanent right to remain in the UK.

A further 1,270 were handed pre-settled status, which gives them permission to keep living in the country and the chance to reapply once they have done so for five years.

The rest of the applications had other outcomes, such as being refused, withdrawn or void, or invalid.​

More than 3 million EU citizens have applied to live and work in the UK after Brexit, according to the Home Office, and more than 2.7 million have been granted permission to remain.

The national figures cover up to the end of January.

Home Secretary Priti Patel described the programme as the “biggest of its kind in British history”, which would mean “EU citizens can evidence their rights for decades to come”, adding: “It’s now time for EU countries to adopt a similar scheme.”

But Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million, said the figures do not shed light on those who do not apply, are refused unlawfully or discouraged from applying.

She added: “Just a small percentage of individuals falling through the cracks means misery for tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people.”

In North Lanarkshire, Polish nationals made the most applications up to the end of December (2,640), followed by people from Romania (440) and Italy (300).

Spain and non-EEA countries were also common places of origin for applicants, with 170 and 150 respectively.

Successful applicants can stay after the deadline on June 30, 2021.

They can use the NHS, study and access public funds and benefits, as well as travel in and out of the country.

In North Lanarkshire, 19 per cent of applications were from under-18s, while just two per cent were from people aged 65 and over. The figures for the age groups stood at 14 per cent and two per cent respectively across the UK, which Ms Bohn described as “worryingly low”.

Meanwhile, the status quo has been questioned too by a former human rights lawyer - turned MP, who is the SNP shadow spokesperson for immigration, asylum and border control.

Shortly after speaking on a key debate on migration in Parliament, Stuart McDonald said: “Boris Johnson promised that Brexit would mean no change for EEA nationals living in North Lanarkshire and across the UK.

“Now however, he’s making them apply to stay in their own home – and I think that is a disgraceful betrayal.

“Inevitably, many will not appreciate they need to apply – perhaps because they’ve been here for decades, because they erroneously believe themselves to be British having been born here, or because they are vulnerable and don’t understand the process. Even if five per cent or 10 per cent don’t apply that means hundreds of thousands of people losing all their rights overnight.

“Boris Johnson should declare in law that all the EEA nationals automatically have the right to remain here, without the need for an application.

“In the meantime, we must all do what we can to ensure everyone is aware of the scheme, and that those who are required to, apply in good time.”