Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:17 pm on 9th June 2020.

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Bella Sankey:

It is deeply problematic that there is not a declaratory scheme for EU citizens. Again, the echoes of Windrush should be considered. Wendy Williams, in her report published last month, found that the Windrush scandal was entirely “foreseeable and avoidable”.

At the time that the Immigration Act 2014 was passed, I worked for Liberty, the National Council for Civil Liberties, and we warned the Home Office that the Windrush scandal, and other scandals, would happen because of the hostile environment that was being introduced. I say again in 2020 that there will be a similar scandal, this time for EU citizens, because the very same problems that the Windrush generation encountered will be real and evident for EU citizens who do not manage to apply for the EU settled status scheme in time. Of course, they will often be people who are more vulnerable and in harder-to-reach groups, and will be made more marginalised by the fact that they have become essentially undocumented.

One of the other big problems with the Bill when thinking about redress and natural justice is that, at present, legal aid is not available in immigration cases. That was one of the many reasons why, during the Windrush scandal, people found themselves being detained and wrongfully deported. There was no access to lawyers for that generation that came to the UK post war to help us to rebuild. Similarly, there will be no access to lawyers for EU citizens who are seeking to regularise their status after the applications close. That is why one of the other amendments that Detention Action is proposing to the Bill is to bring civil legal aid back within scope, at the very least for article 8 cases where people’s private and family lives and human rights are at stake.