EU Settlement Scheme “still unknown to many migrants”

Many eastern European migrant workers don’t know that the EU Settlement Scheme exists, new research suggests.

A survey of EU citizens in Cambridgeshire by the Social Market Foundation think tank found that barely half were aware of the Settlement Scheme.

The report concludes that “the EU Settlement Scheme is still unknown to many migrants, and poorly understood by users”.

The findings come from interviews in early 2020 with 90 migrant workers in the Cambridgeshire fens. Most were Lithuanian, Romanian or Bulgarian. Almost all worked in jobs considered “lower-skilled”.

The Home Office is yet to give details about what exactly happens to people who miss the application deadline, but the default position is that they will be unlawfully resident and can be removed from the UK. 

How are these figures to be reconciled with the fact that 3.9 million people have applied to the Settlement Scheme? While overall application numbers are high, some groups are most likely to be left out than others. The migrant workers taking this survey struggled with English, with three quarters of long term residents (in the UK for ten years or more) still using an interpreter to complete it. As the Migration Observatory at Oxford University pointed out in a 2018 report “people with limited English proficiency may lack access to high-quality information about settled status” (although it doesn’t take an Oxford institution or high powered think tank to work this out).

Another reason is that, while the government can count the people who have applied, it has no idea how many have not. Official immigration statistics are a notoriously unreliable guide to the UK’s migrant population.

Posted on Sep 20, 2020.

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