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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Steve Valdez-Symonds:

The short answer to the first part of your question, so far as Amnesty International is concerned, is: no, the system is not, as you put it, robust or fit for what is about to happen. There are, in broad terms, two major impacts.

There are the large number of people who will suddenly become subject to the fullness of this system. There are also, of course, a large number of other people who are already subject to it. The dysfunction of the system can only be expected to get worse for those people, given that it will be dealing with a much larger body of people—people already living here, and the European nationals who make future applications that the system will have to deal with.

If anyone had doubts about how unfit the system is, they should surely look back to what was revealed last year by the Windrush scandal. In response to that, Amnesty emphasised throughout that it was not a short-term scandal. It was not something that had happened for merely a few months or even a few years. Those issues have been going on for many years.

The system has been robbed of the safeguards that people need, and it has been made extremely complex. I am afraid that, as was made explicit in the quite clear evidence that Professor Bernard Ryan gave to the Committee on Tuesday morning, all we have in the Bill is the switching off of rights for a large number of people without any indication of how their futures will be protected.

The other thing I should like to flag from Professor Ryan’s evidence in response to your questions is that he very properly highlighted the implications not only for people already settled and living in this country but for the future of their descendants. That is a major problem, not least because not only has nothing been done to protect the future status of those who will need to apply for settled status under the new system, but nothing has been done—in some ways more importantly, for those children—to confirm what the status of their parents has been over the last several years. Many of the children we are talking about will have been born in this country, possibly as British citizens, but nobody knows, and in the future no one will be able to prove it.

Otherwise, with entitlements to British citizenship, I am sad to say that this Government have continued the policies of the previous Government by putting hurdles in the way of citizenship rights with fees that are, in our view, far in excess of what is appropriate for people to claim their statutory rights under our British nationality law.

Those matters, and many more, have not been addressed either in preparation for the Bill or on its face. The Bill contains wide powers to make enormous changes to our laws, but no indications or safeguards have been presented as to how that will happen.