Concerns over changes to EU settlement scheme data publications

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Campaigners have urged the Home Office to be “less secretive” over how the EU settlement scheme is performing after the department decided to change the way it publishes data.

EU citizens have been told to apply by June next year in order to carry on living and working in the UK after freedom of movement with the European Union ends.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said the department was “simplifying” future monthly data bulletins to “allow for the timelier release of high-level figures” but “more detailed statistics” would still be made available every quarter.

A “more complete account of all applications” is anticipated in the next quarterly release in August, the department said.

But campaign group the3million, which seeks to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, described the development as a “major concern”.

Co-founder Maike Bohn said “headline figures are meaningless” and detailed data was needed to see if the scheme was working, adding: “The Home Office reporting has only one goal: to show the success of the scheme.

“This misses the point.

“We are talking about the life-changing consequences for those who fall through the cracks.

“We urge the Home Office to be less secretive with their data and sit down with us to find a solution that means everyone entitled to rights will get those rights.”

The group previously raised concerns that it is still not known how many people are yet to apply to the scheme.

Immigration experts, who previously warned gaps in Government data made it difficult to know whether the EU settlement was working, said the change was “generally good news” and should mean clearer statistics are available.

But Dr Marina Fernandez-Reino, senior researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, warned that it “still does not deal with one of the more problematic elements of the data, the fact that applicants who have made more than one application, like those who applied for both settled and presettled status, will be counted more than once, so there is no way of clearly establishing how many people have actually applied.”

Application numbers and decisions plummeted to their lowest ever levels in April as the coronavirus outbreak hit but started to rise again in May, official estimates showed.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has insisted the scheme is a “success” and the department has dismissed repeated calls to extend the deadline over delays caused by the pandemic, saying services have now fully reopened.

The latest experimental figures show overall 3,612,400 applications have been received with 3,319,000 finalised since the scheme began, leaving a backlog of around 293,400 still awaiting a decision.

Some 1,907,500 applications have been granted settled status, giving them permanent leave to remain living and working in the UK, while 1,367,500 were given pre-settled status, where they would need to reapply again after living in the country for five years to gain permanent residence.

The majority of the applications were made by people already living in England, with the highest numbers continuing to be from Polish, Romanian and Italian nationals.

Almost 44,000 applications have been refused, withdrawn, classed as void or invalid.

Applications from British citizens, who already have a right to live in the country and would not require leave to remain in the country, are among those which would be classed as void, the Home Office said.

Refusals are made on eligibility or suitability grounds.

Applications are refused when someone is a serious or persistent offender or when someone does not meet the criteria for the scheme, if they are not living in the UK or are not from one of the countries which can apply.

But it may also be when insufficient proof of residence has been provided.

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