EU citizens living in the UK are exposed to deportation threats, which opposes the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Earlier, the UK ministers had promised that EU citizens who applied to stay in the country before the 30 June deadline would have their rights protected.
However, the Home Office is now criticised for willingly attempting to deport EU citizens, as it is easier than deporting asylum seekers.
Bail for Immigration Detainees (Bid) said that unless a meaningful response is received from Home Office this week, the body will file a complaint in European courts. It had raised concerns over the Home Office failure to protest the rights of the citizens.
Legal battlers by lawers are undergone to protect the EU nationals following the Brexit deal.
Pierre Makhlouf, legal director of Bid, said: “It seems that the Home Office has pre-decided the fate of certain EU nationals, perhaps believing that they are easy to remove. But in its drive to deport more people, it is side-stepping legal requirements and procedures.
“Whether this is due to administrative or wilful neglect may be unclear, but by ignoring the legal steps that EU nationals have undertaken to assert their rights, the UK is in breach of its duties under the withdrawal agreement.”
The issue appears to relate mostly to applications sent by post instead of forwarded digitally. Araniya Kogulathas, a barrister and legal manager of Bid’s EEA (European Economic Area) project, said paper applications were used by many vulnerable and marginalised people, including the elderly and those in detention or prison who found it difficult to access a computer or didn’t have access to a valid identity document.
The numbers affected could be significant. For instance, out of 1,500 inmates at Wandsworth prison, south London, almost 500 are believed to be EU nationals.
Kogulathas said: “Despite having made EUSS applications, EEA nationals are being deprived of their liberty and even served with removal directions, both of which they are forced to challenge despite limited access to legal advice and representation.
She added: “These challenges are particularly difficult for those detained under immigration powers in prisons, some of whom are locked in their cells for around 23 hours a day or more due to the pandemic.”
Aware of such difficulties, ministers have promised an indefinite period where people who had not applied would be allowed to do so if they had reasonable grounds.
Among the cases known to Bid is one where the Home Office failed to acknowledge a EUSS application submitted in mid-July, stating that there were “no barriers to his removal and removal directions are to be set soon”. Another case involved an EU citizen who, despite submitting a EUSS application online, still received removal directions from the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesperson rejected the claims as “completely baseless” and despite a number of cases featured in the article having been contested by the Home Office in immigration tribunals – the latest of which occurred on Friday – claimed, “the Observer had failed to provide any proof whatsoever that detention or removal directions are being served to those with EUSS Settlement Scheme Status”.
They added: “Our approach means that should immigration enforcement encounter anyone without EUSS but who may be eligible, we will work with them to enable them to apply and signpost them to available support. If someone has applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by the 30 June deadline, but has not had a decision yet, their rights are protected until their application is decided.”