Home Office regulations affecting millions of EU citizens living in the UK under the settlement scheme are unlawful, a high court judge has ruled.
A watchdog guarding EU citizens’ rights in the UK has warned the current scheme could create hundreds-of-thousands of illegal immigrants overnight.
The measures are part of the post-Brexit EU settlement scheme that requires EU citizens with “pre-settled status” to reapply for an upgraded status in order to stay in the UK.
The Home Office said it will appeal against the high court’s ruling. It found that the scheme creates so much uncertainty that it breaks the UK’s Brexit withdrawal agreement.
A two-stage process for EU citizens who want to stay in the UK has been run by the Home Office since 2018.
An estimated 2.8 million people currently hold pre-settled status which gives a limited right to live in the UK. It expires if holders do not apply for full settled status after five years.
Settlement scheme may make EU citizens ‘illegal’
The Independent Monitoring Authority – which acts as the post-Brexit monitoring watchdog for EU citizens’ rights – said a huge number of people face being declared illegal if they do not reapply on time.
Around 220,000 EU citizens took part in the settlement scheme’s pilot in 2018 face losing their right to live in the UK next year. They are most at risk of being removed from the country they have made their home.
Junior home office minister Lord Murray said the government will appeal the high court ruling. He insisted ministers “take very seriously their obligations towards the UK’s friends.”
Braverman considering cruise ships and holiday parks for asylum seekers
Meanwhile, home secretary Suella Braverman has refused to rule out using cruise ships to house asylum seekers.
Braverman told the Lords’ justice and home affairs committee that using former cruise ships is one of a number of measures being considered to accommodate migrants.
The home secretary said it is “incredibly difficult” to move large numbers of migrants out of the hotels that currently house them at a cost of around £5 million per day.
As well as repurposing cruise ships, Braverman said other options include using “disused holiday parks” and “former student halls [of residence]”.
“We need to bring forward thousands of places. When you talk about vessels, I will just say, and all I can say because we are are in discussions with a wide variety of providers, that everything is still on the table and nothing is excluded,” said Braverman.
She also told the Lords’ committee that immigration staff assessing asylum claims are each making an average of one-decision per week about cases.
On Monday [Dec 19] the high court referred eight asylum cases back to the home office because they had not been “properly considered”.
The eight people affected were due to have been sent to Rwanda. That controversial policy is lawful, the high court also ruled on Monday.
An appeal against that judgement is expected to be heard in January.