Campaigners warn EU citizens apply for settled status or risk losing legal right to live in UK

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There are growing concerns about the number of vulnerable people who have not applied to stay in the UK after Brexit.

Campaigners are comparing the potential impact of the EU Settled Status scheme to the Windrush scandal, which saw people who had lived in the UK for decades denied legal rights and threatened with deportation.

Citizens Advice Cornwall says although more than 14,650 people have applied for EU Settled Status in the county, less than 4% of over-65s and 10% of children have been registered.

Without valid EU Settled Status after 30 June, people will lose their right to live and work in the country. They will also lose access to free NHS healthcare, and financial benefits such as their pension during retirement.

Outreach workers told ITV West Country they are worried about people who wrongly think they already have the correct documentation they need to stay in the UK.

Carlos learnt his original documentation to live and work in the UK would not be enough with the Settled Status application Credit: ITV West Country

Carlos Bota lives in Penzance and has been living in Cornwall for nearly 60 years but he only recently applied for Settled Status after receiving a letter from the Spanish embassy.

"I didn't know anything because about 55 years ago I had a document from the Home Office saying I was free do anything that everyone else can do here.

"The Spanish embassy sent me a letter about two months ago advising me to have to residential certificate."

Another concern is the number of elderly people who do not understand the smartphone app needed to complete the application.

Christane Simsa knew she needed to apply over a year ago, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic she says she has only recently had support from Citizens Advice to help her complete her application.

"I couldn't find the application because I am not online, I have no smartphone or email address. There has been a lockdown so I couldn't go to the library.

"The first time someone talked to me what Citizens advice Cornwall and I found out about all these things."

People who are not technologically literate are being supported by charities such as Citizens Advice and Settled. Credit: ITV West Country

Citizens Advice Cornwall have been hosting outreach workshops in Camborne, Bodmin and St Austell as well as visiting traveller sites in the county to contact as many people who don't follow traditional media as possible.

Ineda Simelionyte, from the advice charity, says if people do not apply on time and miss the deadline they will lose all their rights.

"It is devastating and some EU nationals don't realise that because they never had to deal with the Home Office or any immigration organisations. I think we will learn about the full scale and the full impact at the beginning of July once EU national will be asked to prove their rights in the UK."

Nationally the latest Home Office figures from March show more than 5.4 million people have applied to the scheme in the two years it has been open. Over half (53%) were granted settled status – which gives them the right to live and work in the country indefinitely – and 44% were offered pre-settled status which lasts for five years.

Emmanuelle Brook is a campaigner for the charity Settled and has been supporting many people in Cornwall with their applications.She says people will slowly notice the effects of the government's hostile environment to illegal immigrants if they miss the deadline.

"People may not realise for a little while but if you start wanting to move house or you want a new job this will all become a big problem."

The Home Office has shared guidance on "reasonable grounds for missing the deadline" and say they will take a pragmatic and flexible approach to considering late EUSS applications.

These include instances where a person had a serious medical condition, which meant they were unable to apply by the relevant deadline, or someone who is isolated, vulnerable or did not have the digital skills to access the application process.