The treatment of the Windrush generation by the British government’s immigration authorities is “deeply worry” for EU citizens who face disruption to their lives from Brexit, the European Parliament’s Brexit chief has warned.
Speaking as ministers admitted that some people who had lived in Britain for decades had been deported in error despite the right to remain, Guy Verhofstadt said “millions of EU citizens” would “fear similar treatment” from the UK government.
An unknown number of people who arrived in Britain as children from the Caribbean but never formally naturalised or applied for a British passports are facing obstacles to rent homes, get NHS treatment and work after the Government imposed new rules requiring proof of residence.
EU citizens living in the UK are already concerned about the registration process floated by the British government because of previous errors by the Home Office.
Theresa May last year described incidents in which up to 100 EU citizens were wrongly sent deportation as an “unfortunate error”, stating that the Home Office had “moved quickly” after the mistake became known.
Commenting on the latest Windrush revelations, Mr Verhofstadt said on Monday: “This will be deeply worrying for millions of EU citizens in the UK who will now fear similar treatment after Brexit.
“The Home Office has agreed to come to the European Parliament to explain their proposed registration system for EU nationals and I expect MEPs will rightly want safeguards.”
Anti-Brexit campaigners in the UK echoed Mr Verhofstadt’s sentiments. Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, a supporter of the Best For Britain campaign, said:
“EU nationals all over the country will have already drawn the comparisons for themselves.
“The Home Office cannot make our current immigration system work, so there is no prospect of creating a massively more complicated system for many, many more people, and to have it in place and working anytime soon.
“The treatment of the Windrush generation by Theresa May’s Government has been despicable. The only good that can come is if they now acknowledge the harm they have done, fix it, and back off doing the same to yet more people.”
Downing Street refused to even discuss the issue at a Commonwealth heads of government summit this week, according to the Barbados government. On Monday, after extensive public outcry, No.10 U-turned and said it would in fact discuss the situation, and would try and resolve it, but has not proposed a specific solution.
The British Government wants EU migrants to have to apply for “settled status” after Brexit, and has said they would have to pay a fee around the cost of a British passport.
In recent years the Government introduced new requirements that landlords and NHS staff must ask for proof of residence – often a passport – before they were allowed to rent a home or receive free NHS care. However, Britain has no national identity card scheme and many people, for instance those who arrived on their parents passports as children and have never had reason to travel abroad, have been left unable to prove their residence.
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The Government was repeatedly warned about the policies at the time of their introduction. The Residential Landlords Association in December said Right To Rent checks should be suspended, after new research showed that 40 per cent of landlords were less likely to rent to people without British passports. Doctors threatened to boycott the checks in the NHS and they were condemned in a motion by the British Medical Association.