Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart is demanding Prime Minister Boris Johnson grants automatic settlement rights to all EU nationals living in Scotland ahead of a deadline for applying.
The SNP politician says there is a “lack of understanding” about the scheme, with the risk of EU nationals slipping through the net “devastating and far-reaching”.
However, the Home Office revealed on Thursday that more than five million applications have been made to the EU Settlement Scheme with four months still go to before the deadline of June 30.
Mr Stewart has asked Mr Johnson to do “everything in his power” to protect the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK including granting automatic settled status to all EU nationals and non-EU family members resident in the UK.
He said: “In Aberdeen and across Scotland we’ve seen EU nationals deliver on the frontline throughout this pandemic in our hospitals, in our care homes and across our economy – it is, quite frankly, an utter disgrace that many could see their rights ripped away in a few months’ time.
“Not a single EU national should face this cliff edge scenario and their rights should be guaranteed – no deadlines, no ifs and no buts.
“The UK Government must do the right thing by people that have done so much for our country and who have contributed so much throughout this pandemic.
“Granting automatic settlement status would be doing the honourable thing given how the Tory government has used the rights of EU nationals in such a disgraceful way throughout the Brexit process.”
Care sector workers
Mr Stewart’s intervention follows new research from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which focuses on the potential impact on the care sector.
It found that one in seven care workers did not know or were not sure what the settlement scheme is, one in three care workers surveyed in person had not heard of it and that one in three care workers surveyed online did not know there was a deadline.
One of the reports recommendations is to grant all EU nationals automatic settled status.
It stated: “Many EU countries are doing the same for British citizens and it’s the only way to avoid the risk that tens of thousands of people will fall out of status and face becoming criminalised after June 2021.”
More than five million applications
The Home Office figures released on Thursday show the total number of applications received up to January 31 was 5,060,600.
This includes more than 4.5 million applications from England, 252,400 from Scotland, 83,800 from Wales and 81,800 from Northern Ireland up to January 31.
More than 4.5 million grants of status have also been made.
The UK Government has also announced a further £4.5 million of funding for the network of 72 organisations across the UK that supports the vulnerable and hard to reach in applying for the scheme – in addition to the £17m already provided.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “It is fantastic news that over five million people have applied to the hugely successful EU Settlement Scheme.
“It’s the biggest scheme of its kind in UK history and will mean European citizens and their families can continue to call the UK home.”