British and EU flag in front of the Parliament in London
Photo: Frank Augstein / DPA
A special program aims to save EU citizens living in Great Britain from a Brexit chaos. But shortly before the crucial deadline, experts fear that hundreds of thousands of people will soon face legal problems because they are overwhelmed with the request for a new status. On June 30, the application deadline for the so-called EU settlement program, which is intended to guarantee EU citizens living in Great Britain largely the same rights as before Brexit, ends.
"Anyone who has not applied by the deadline and cannot prove a good reason for a late application will immediately and irrevocably lose their right of residence," said a report by think tank UK in a Changing Europe published on Wednesday.
These people are then even at risk of being deported.
Hundreds of thousands could be affected.
Digital process as a hurdle for certain groups
Eligible to apply for the program are EU citizens and people from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland who were in Great Britain before the end of last year.
The experts consider the elderly, foster children and homeless people to be particularly at risk of missing the important deadline - i.e. everyone who could either find the purely digital application process difficult or who are not even aware that they will have to apply for a new status after Brexit .
In addition, a clear weakness is that there is no register of EU citizens in Great Britain and the government cannot check how many people there are in the country who, in principle, have to apply.
»The EU Settlement Scheme is a great success because it created a fast and efficient system that reached a large number of people.
But it is now entering a phase that requires sensitivity and where the government needs to be pragmatism and flexible on difficult cases, ”said Catherine Barnard, the think tank's deputy director.
To date, more than five million people have applied for settlement status in the UK - more than originally expected.
dpa / mmq