Anna, 15, is originally from Latvia. She came to the UK when she was 8 and has been in the care of children’s services for the past 3 years. She lives with foster carers in Greater Manchester. Marie, her social worker, was aware that Brexit might affect Anna’s situation but as she was unsure what to do she focused on Anna’s immediate needs and left her immigration issues “for another day”. When Marie’s supervisor circulated an email from Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit about support for children like Anna, Marie said it was “a God send”.
A solicitor explained to Marie that without an application to the EU Settlement Scheme Anna would end up unlawfully in the UK, part of a generation described as “Windrush on steroids”, with no access to employment or benefits and at risk of homelessness, detention and removal from the UK.
But Anna wasn’t able to make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme because she didn’t have the required documents. The only ID document Anna had was her Latvian passport, which had expired, and so didn’t count as a valid piece of ID for the application. When Marie contacted the Latvian embassy to apply for a new passport, she was told it would take 2 months. And then COVID-19 meant restricted travel and limited access to services, extending the wait even further.
Anna also needs written evidence of how long she has been in the UK so the Home Office can decide if she’s eligible for Settled Status (for people in the UK longer than 5 years) or Pre-Settled Status (which is only temporary). Marie can write a letter to cover the time Anna has been in care but this only covers 3 years – not the 5 years needed to apply for Settled Status. So before Anna can apply, Marie has to contact schools, doctors’ surgeries and health visitors to get evidence of the additional years Anna has been in the UK so that she can get the status to which she is entitled. Lockdown has meant most community services are either overwhelmed or shut, so Marie is still waiting for the information Anna needs.
The EU Settlement Scheme shuts in June 2021. Every month without action means more children in Greater Manchester, like Anna, are at risk of missing the deadline and being thrown to the Hostile Environment.