Warning of 'Windrush Two' for EU citizens as deadline for applications to continue living in Wales looms

  • Watch the video report by ITV Wales journalist Hamish Auskerry

As many as 2,000 older European citizens living legally in Wales may lose their rights to healthcare, pensions and residency in less than six weeks if they do not complete an application to the EU settlement scheme before the impending deadline. 

Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, citizens from EU countries living in the UK - except for those from the Republic of Ireland - now have to apply for 'Settled Status' to continue living, working and studying in the UK.

The deadline for applications is June 30th. 

Settled Status will also enable access to a range of support services such as health and social care, pension credit, and housing benefit. 

However, Age UK estimates that approximately 47,000 older people in the UK have not yet applied, which would roughly translate to around 2,000 older EU nationals in Wales.

Michael Arapis is the vice-chair of the Greek Orthodox community of Wales.

He told ITV News: "People that haven't secured their status they will technically become illegal immigrants in this country.

"So people that have been residing here legally, even for decades - but let's say now they're in their 80s or 90s with dementia in a care home and they are unable to complete this application - they will, in theory, lose all their rights."

Mr Arapis, who is also on the board of the New Europeans, is calling for an extension to the deadline, especially for vulnerable people and for those who simply don't know they need to apply until it's too late.

"This is merely a human rights issue - this is not a political issue," he added.

"A lot of people will be affected in terms of housing, jobs, perhaps healthcare or pensions.

"They will be scared, they will be worried, they will be disappointed, especially because probably they will find out the consequences of this months or even years afterwards."

Credit: ITV Wales

The charity Settled works to ensure the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit are protected.

Raul and Silvia Lopez volunteer for the charity and have seen first-hand the scale of the problem. 

"We call it - and excuse this expression - 'Windrush generation two', because we are afraid a Euro Windrush generation is going to happen. We think thousands of people are going to suffer this terrible fate," Raul told ITV News.

"People are panicking now," Silvia said.

"The ones who are aware that they need to do it - if they haven't been able to do so -because the deadline is literally around the corner."

The charity Mind Newport has received government funding to help EU citizens apply. 

Over the last six months, the charity says it has successfully supported more than 1,200 individuals to submit applications.

However, many older people may not be aware that they have to apply for Settled Status as they have been shielding during the pandemic or living in relative isolation in care homes.

Age Cymru says more than half of the over-75s in Wales are not online and so will struggle to complete the digital-only process.

The charity's chief executive Victoria Lloyd, says:  “It is inconceivable that extremely vulnerable older people will be denied crucial support services simply because they are not able to use the internet or because they have been shielding from the pandemic.

"Many of these older people will have lived here for decades, forging careers and raising families.

“While we understand that the Welsh Government did not design the application process nor set the deadline, they can offer reassurances to this vulnerable group that they will continue to have the support of health and social services in Wales regardless of their application.

“We would also urge carers, families and friends who may be in contact with someone who may need to apply for Settled Status to offer your support and encourage them to make the application before the looming deadline.”

Minister for future borders and immigration Kevin Foster MP told ITV Wales: "Our focus is getting people to apply.

"We've had 5.4 million people apply and now is the time for others to make theirs.

"If you have any concerns about getting your application in, advice is available.

"We've done a range of work to find out where people need more support and we're working with local authorities to identify those in social care."

On whether the deadline would be extended, he said: "Having launched the scheme two years ago, we feel people have had good time to apply, but we will accept late applications where there are reasonable grounds."

He added: "We are determined to avoid another Windrush and learn from that era. And that's exactly why we launched the settlement scheme, so that for decades to come people had clear evidence that proves their rights and of their status and could evidence it when needed to."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “We are fully committed to ensuring the thousands of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens apply for settled status.

"We urge anyone who has not yet applied for settled status to do so as soon as they can and before the 30 June deadline.

“We are concerned about the number of vulnerable EU citizens in Wales and we’re continually working with the Older People’s Commissioner, local Health Boards and Local Authorities, and more recently we’ve written to 750 care homes in Wales who may have residents that are unaware of their need to apply for settled status.

“A variety of free advice is available to those who may need help in applying for settled status. Further information is available on the Welsh Government’s ‘Preparing Wales’ website.”

You can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme here.