- EU nationals who wish to continue living in the UK after Brexit can only complete app using an Android smartphone
- 71 Labour MPs and MEPs sign letter led by Luke Pollard MP calling for Home Secretary to release app on other operating systems
- “Ministers are rolling out a system that is causing distress and concern” says Plymouth MP
An open letter to the Home Secretary led by Luke Pollard MP, 58 Labour MPs and 12 MEPs has called for urgent changes to be made to the EU Settlement scheme App that currently only works on one model of smartphone.
The open letter is backed by the Shadow Environment and Brexit teams on Labour’s frontbench. It says many Labour MPs have received correspondence from constituents anxious about their right to live and work in the country they call home after Brexit and are unable to finish their application because they don’t have the mobile phone type stipulated by the Home Office.
The government guaranteed EU nationals living in the UK that the rights they currently enjoy will continue after Brexit. Labour MPs are urging the Home Secretary to make this promise a reality by immediately releasing an app compatible with Apple and other operating systems.
Following the Windrush scandal the public is already aware of the administrative obstacles that exist in the UK’s immigration system. The letter calls for the EU Settlement application to be made easy and accessible so public trust and confidence in the Settlement Scheme is not damaged.
Luke Pollard MP, Shadow Environment Minister and MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
“Not having the right mobile phone should not make your application for settled status more difficult to complete. By limiting features to Android phones Ministers are excluding potentially hundreds of thousands of EU citizens from completing their application easily. Restricting services to one type of mobile phone is digital discrimination pure and simple.
This is a cruel and ridiculous oversight by Ministers. We saw in the Windrush Scandal how administrative errors caused genuine pain and misery for British citizens, but clearly these lessons have not been learnt.
No one voted for their neighbours to feel anxious about being deported after Britain leaves the European Union.”
Paul Blomfield MP, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister leading on Settled Status said:
“In 2016 Labour called on the Government to send a strong message to EU nationals and their families that we wanted them to stay by guaranteeing their leave to remain and upholding all their rights. Instead, they are making them jump through hoops. It was only last week that the Government gave in to demands from the Labour Party and the 3 Million that they scrap the £65 application fee.
Requiring people to apply to secure rights that they have had for years is bad enough, but making the application process inaccessible adds insult to injury and risks people falling through the net. The Home Office needs to get a grip on this as a matter of urgency, and provide the option of a paper based application system.”
The text of the letter reads:
Dear Home Secretary,
DIGITAL DISCRIMINATION FOR EU SETTLEMENT SCHEME APPLICATION
We write to you to express our deep concern that many EU nationals are not able to apply for the settled status scheme because they do not own a specific mobile phone type. At present the Government is only allowing applications via Android phones and not via Apple. This oversight is causing considerable distress to our constituents and places another barrier between them and post-Brexit certainty for themselves and their families.
While we were relieved to hear that the Prime Minister decided to waive the unfair £65 application fee, the current restricted access to the application system flies in the face of fair treatments of EU nationals. The Government should be seeking to make applying for settled status easier not pursuing restrictive paths as they are here.
After the Windrush scandal the public are acutely aware of administrative obstacles and difficulties within our immigration system. The Settled Status scheme for EU Nationals must not be plagued with public distrust but this operating system difficulty is not providing the confidence that the public, our EU friends and Parliamentarians need to have in this system.
EU nationals living in the constituencies we represent make a sizeable contribution to our nation’s economy and our social fabric. Administrative hurdles to applying for settled status must be swiftly removed. It is deeply concerning that the rights of our EU neighbours to continue to live and work in the UK after Brexit should be put at risk because they do not own a certain brand of smartphone or tablet.
We are calling on your department to take steps to end this digital discrimination and immediately introduce an app compatible with other non-Android smartphones. We also ask that you review the digital application process to ensure that no other obstacles have been introduced.
We urge you to act swiftly so that confidence in the settled status system is not permanently damaged.
Luke Pollard MP
Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
The Home Secretary Sajid Javid has recently said that so far ninety per cent of applications to the settled status scheme have worked. It is not clear what steps the Home Office is taking to reduce the uncertainty for the remaining ten per cent. Ten per cent of EU nationals comes to 350,000 people.
The need to make the app urgently and widely available was stressed because of the Government’s failure to rule out a no-deal Brexit. As it stands the Immigration Bill will remove the legal basis on which all 3.5 million EU nationals base their immigration status in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Luke Pollard MP said in response to the EU Settlement Scheme being fully open by 30 March 2019:
“Ministers are rolling out a system that is causing distress and concern. It should have been right for every EU national from the moment the scheme was launched.
Promising it will be OK in the future doesn’t give our EU friends the certainty or confidence they need. They should not have to wait for virtually the day we leave the EU to have a system that works properly.”