With the fate of Brexit seemingly down to “indicative” votes, reality on the ground has EU citizens in Britain denied access to benefits such as council housing and social security payments.
Already, one housing association has announced a special session for tenants affected by Brexit to outline the legalities of their situation.
Parliament’s human rights committee says that situation is “precarious”, despite government claiming it is”‘committed” to protecting related rights.
The committee has raised concerns that the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill could leave people in a “rights limbo”.
In a report, the committee says: “Although the government has said that it is not its intention to strip EU citizens resident in the UK of their rights, that is the effect of this bill as it stands.”
The committee has urged ministers to build in guarantees to ensure EU citizens will be entitled to the same rights as now.
According to the report, the bill as it stands relies on the home secretary enacting secondary legislation – laws created using powers given to ministers by Parliament – to restore the same rights that people from EU countries have at the moment.
The committee adds that it is proposing amendments to the legislation so that current protections and guarantees can be enshrined in law.
Committee chair Harriet Harman MP said: “We’re talking about the rights of people who have resided in the UK for years, decades even, paying into our social security system or even having been born in the UK and lived here their whole lives.
“Promising that everything will be worked out in the future is not good enough – it must be a guarantee.”
The committee also highlighted concerns about the settlement scheme for EU nationals, notably around the time limit and the lack of a physical proof of status.
The Home Office spokeswoman said the settlement scheme was designed to be “as simple and straightforward as possible” and that the government had launched a nationwide marketing campaign to encourage EU citizens to apply.
Meantime, tenants of Queens Cross Housing Association affected by plans for the UK to leave the EU will be reassured at a special drop-in-session to explain the legalities of their post-Brexit status.
According to latest census figures, there are 209,000 EU citizens living in Scotland – almost 4% of the total population.
Queens Cross currently has 250 households with tenants from other non UK European Union countries, mainly Irish and Polish, but also from Latvia, Hungary and Romania.
“The uncertainty around the UK leaving the European Union is understandably very stressful for our tenants who are affected by this,” said Queens Cross chief executive, Shona Stephen.
“The confusion around the process of leaving is doing little to reassure them about what will happen when the UK eventually does leave.
“We feel as a responsible landlord we want to provide information and support to our tenants.”
Queens Cross will have legal advisers on hand to advise EU tenants and answer their questions about how Brexit is likely to impact on their rights to live and work in Scotland.