Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 14th February 2019.

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Ilona Pinter:

We did. Thank you for the question. I think that there has been recognition of the challenge in regularising or settling the status of so many EU nationals. I think the Home Office has done a huge amount to try to make this as simple as possible. I mentioned the fees; getting rid of the fees is really welcome. Of course, the working with voluntary organisations in the testing as well as going forward to address the needs of vulnerable groups is really important and welcome.

We are currently also working with the Government on looking at children-specific communication—communication aimed at children and young people and their parents and about making sure that as many families and children as possible are able to settle their status. In addition to the 900,000 children I mentioned, the Migration Observatory has also highlighted that 1.2 million EU nationals are adults who are parents. They will have to think about their children’s status or citizenship rights. That is really important.

There are things that we believe need to be done to provide safeguards—for instance, a right of appeal in the EU settlement scheme. That was within the statement of intent for the withdrawal agreement Bill, but I know that the Committee has discussed whether this Bill might be the right avenue for it. Equally, legal aid is a key issue. We welcome the fact that the Government have agreed to provide legal aid for separated children, and we understand that that will extend to EU settlement, but children within families will remain unable to access legal aid.

There are a range of complex situations where advisers at the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner level 1—the level that enables people to support those applying for settled status—will be unable to deal with the complexities that some families will have, because of myriad reasons to do with documentation, trafficking histories, domestic violence and a range of other issues, particularly in families where there is a Zambrano carer. Some issues remain outstanding.