Today’s report from the Home Affairs Committee raises serious concerns about how the immigration system will cope with the changes brought by Brexit and criticises the continued uncertainty over the status of EU nationals.
Uncertainty for EEA nationals
The process of registering the status of the three million EEA nationals who are resident in the UK is an exercise ‘unprecedented in scale’. However, with just months before the registration process is supposed to start, there is continued uncertainty as to how it will operate. CCLC welcomes the committee’s call on the government to ‘immediately set out more detailed plans for the registration of EU nationals and to ensure that ‘cost is not a barrier’ to registration, with fee waivers made available to particular groups, such as children in care, who often face insecurity when approaching adulthood.
The report highlights the growing uncertainty and anxiety faced by EEA nationals and their family members in the face of delays to the government’s immigration white paper, which will not now be published before autumn 2018. Noting in its recommendations that ‘If key questions are not swiftly resolved and delivery plans drawn up, we do not believe that UKVI will be capable of delivering significant changes to the system either at the border or on registration by March 2019’, the Committee expresses concern that EEA nationals will be forced to make use of existing systems, which are not fit for purpose.
Problems with the current system for non-EEA migrants
The Committee highlights a number of problems and weaknesses facing the current immigration system, and the urgent need for it to be simplified and made more accessible. Coram Children’s Legal Centre’s (CCLC) experience is that the current immigration system is flawed in a number of ways, and negatively impacts on children. It is essential that the process that will be introduced for EU nationals to remain in the UK after Brexit does not allow children and families to ‘slip through the gaps’. We are also concerned about the impact of substantial change to an immigration system that does not put the needs of children at the forefront.
The Committee recognised the need for shorter routes to settled status for non-European migrants, citing CCLC’s evidence on the negative impact on children of being granted temporary permission (leave) to remain, with very long routes to settlement. A young person who has lived at least half their life in the UK will still only be granted an initial period of leave for 30 months and will not be entitled to indefinite leave to remain until they have accumulated ten continuous years of such leave, requiring a total of five applications to be made costing up to £8,269 at the current rates.
The Committee rightly highlights that ‘in requiring people to apply for repeated extensions before they can achieve settlement the Home Office has increased its own workload as well as added to the costs and complexity for the applicant’. CCLC strongly supports the recommendation that ‘the Government review and attempt to streamline the process for those who apply based on long residence and where it is recognised they should be able to remain in the UK.’
Children and young people who are granted leave need a shorter route to permanence and citizenship, and both the Immigration Bill and the necessary upheaval to enable the system to process applications from European nationals represent an opportunity to reconsider the principles underlying the immigration system.
Read the Home Affairs Select Committee report ‘Home Office delivery of Brexit: immigration’
Read CCLC’s evidence to the Committee
Read our briefing on a settlement for European children in the UK
 Recommendation 8
 Recommendation 30
 Recommendation 16
 Recommendation 77