UK faces oversight probe into EU citizens’ paperwork lapses – POLITICO

LONDON — The British government is facing an official investigation into alleged failures to quickly provide EU citizens with vital documents needed to work and access basic services in Britain.

The Independent Supervisory Authority (IMA) – the watchdog set up to watch over the rights of EU citizens in Britain – announced an investigation on Monday after spending months compiling complaints from candidates for the EU settlement program who have experienced delays in receiving their claim certificates.

The watchdog said such cases could indicate a breach of the UK’s obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Brexit divorce deal says the UK must issue documents immediately after receiving an application, allowing EU nationals living in Britain to exercise crucial rights – such as applying for a job or rent a house – while the Home Office considers their application.

Kathryn Chamberlain, chief executive of the IMA, said the watchdog recognizes “the potential impact this important issue could have on people’s lives and their rights”, but warned that an investigation “will not lead results overnight.”

“In the meantime, we strongly encourage citizens who are having persistent problems to seek individual support through organizations that provide personalized advice,” she said.

As part of the investigation, the IMA will review the complaints received so far, interview key government officials and investigate the policies and processes adopted by the Home Office for issuing application certificates.

The watchdog has the power to take legal action against the UK government if necessary.

The issue of paperwork delays was discussed at the January meeting of the specialist EU-UK Committee on Citizens’ Rights, which oversees the implementation of the UK nationals’ divorce agreement provisions. EU in Britain and British citizens in the EU.

In response to the IMA’s announcement, the Home Office said it had implemented the citizens’ rights provisions of the Brexit divorce deal in good faith, that it would work together to the investigation and that he would review the watchdog’s report in its entirety when complete.

“The EU settlement program has been a resounding success, with more than 5.8 million granted status,” a Home Office spokesman said. “We have been working as quickly as possible to ensure that those with valid claims receive their claim certificate which they can rely on to demonstrate their rights.”

The Home Office previously blamed its backlog on the large number of applications submitted on paper, which it said can take longer to resolve than online applications. The ministry said it must verify the identity of each candidate before issuing a certificate of candidacy.

But citizens’ rights campaigners insist the Brexit deal does not require the government to confirm people’s identities before sending out a certificate.

Luke Piper, policy director of pressure group The3million, welcomed the investigation but lamented that it had taken so long. He said his group has been reporting cases to the Home Office and the IMA since April 2021 and released a report last November focused specifically on the issue.

“In some cases, they [certificates of application] took over six months to arrive,” Piper said. “The implications cannot be underestimated and must be addressed urgently. People have been deprived of health care, work and other basic rights simply because they have not received a certificate.

This article has been updated.


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