With less than a week to go before the deadline for applications to the EU settlement scheme, Coram Children’s Legal Centre is concerned that not all eligible children have applied.
Applications from children have not yet met the numbers estimated to be needed in 2018, even though the number of applications overall has significantly outstripped 2018 predictions by 20-30%. This potentially leaves many thousands of children at risk of being undocumented on 1 July 2021.
With clear evidence that eligible children have not yet applied to the scheme, the government must now extend the deadline to allow time for these children to apply.
How many children need to apply?
No one knows exactly how many children need to apply to the EU settlement scheme. There are various estimates but these are approximate as they are based on data including the Labour Force Survey which are not drawn up with children in mind. The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford estimated in their April 2018 report, ‘Unsettled Status? Which EU citizens are at risk of failing to secure their rights after Brexit?’, that there were more than 900,000 children of non-Irish EU citizen parents living in the UK. The Greater London Authority commissioned a report by the University of Wolverhampton published in January 2020 that estimated that there were 809,000 EU citizen children resident in the UK. In the Migration Observatory’s September 2020 report ‘Unsettled Status – 2020’ they estimated that there are 689,000 children living in the UK with non-Irish EU citizenship.
None of the estimates above include the non-EU citizen children (and grandchildren) of EU citizens, who are also eligible to apply. And more children are being born every day who now need to apply within a tight window in order to secure their rights. We are concerned that babies born at the current time will not be able to get a birth certificate and passport or ID quickly enough to apply on time. It can take months for parents of new-borns to get this paperwork sorted. Yet parents with pre-settled status have just a three month window after the birth of their new-born to apply for status on their behalf. Failure to do so will leave that child without status in the UK.
How many children have been granted status already?
Home Office statistics now show that of over 4.7 million grants of settled or pre-settled status up to 31 March 2021, only 685,370 were to children. This potentially leaves thousands of children without secure status as the deadline looms.
Some children born in the UK to EEA-national parents will be automatically British, but many will not be. The law is complex and has changed many times in recent decades, meaning that families may not understand this. The numbers of applications for children’s British passports that have been made, and rejected, since 2016 may shed light on this lack of understanding, but the Home Office was unable to provide data via a Freedom of Information request to show how many relevant applications for children’s passports have been made.
Other children are entitled to become British through the process of registration. But the numbers registering are lower than Coram Children’s Legal Centre would expect. The low numbers of citizenship registrations for children could be due to the low levels of understanding of children’s citizenship rights, but could also be due to the very high Home Office fee of £1012. Home Office published statistics show the following figures for EEA and Swiss children who have become British over the past ten years:
|Registrations of EEA and Swiss minor children
Fewer than 10,000 citizenship registrations a year since 2018 would suggest that EU citizen families are not generally pursuing British citizenship as an alternative to securing immigration status for their children under the EU settlement scheme. Indeed, many of the registrations above will be for children who have also been granted pre-settled or settled status under the EUSS.
As such, all these numbers give us some cause for concern. Potentially thousands of children have not yet been granted any form of status, with less than a week remaining before the deadline.
Action is needed now
In our view, the Government should extend the EU settlement scheme deadline to make sure all eligible children can apply. There is no purpose in imposing this deadline on children, young people and families – it is in no one’s interests that any child falls through the cracks and ends up without the status that is their right.
Thought too must be given to babies born close to, and after, the deadline. We very much welcome that the Home Office made a change so that a baby born after 30th June 2021 will be deemed to be British by birth if their parent would have been settled at the time of their birth, had they not applied late to the EU settlement scheme and been granted status. But a three month window to document a new-born child and apply to the EU settlement scheme is simply not enough time.
And for those children who could be born British, or entitled to British citizenship, the government should do much more to explain and communicate children’s citizenship rights, and make those rights a reality by scrapping the high fee.
For more information please contact Marianne Lagrue at email@example.com