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MIGRANT rights campaigners and Labour accused the Home Office today of being “less than co-operative” in helping vulnerable and hard-to-reach people apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
A report from a watchdog reviewing the Home Office’s handling of the settlement scheme described some of its responses to concerns as “less positive and constructive” than hoped.
Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Bolt raised the concerns and made recommendations for improvements to the way the scheme operates for applicants who find the process difficult.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, said: “It is unacceptable that government departments have been less than co-operative when the status of millions of EU citizens is at issue.”
Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million, a campaign group of EU migrants, said that some people were “struggling to apply” or still did not know about the scheme and could miss out.
The group Migrant Voice said it was pleased that the watchdog’s report highlighted concerns such as the hidden costs of applying to the scheme and “a lack of transparency and detail in the Home Office data, and the need for consistency in how applications are processed.”
The Home Office accepted all but one of the watchdog’s recommendations. The watchdog asked the department to consider whether it had done enough to ensure the application process was “genuinely free and therefore accessible to all applicants.”
The report points out that costs are incurred through phone charges when calling the scheme’s helpline and that some councils charge for ID document-scanning services.
A Home Office spokesman insisted it was free to apply to the scheme, but conceded that some applicants may incur costs. He added that help and information was available by phone, online and in person – suggesting costs could be avoided.
About £4 million is being spent on advertising the scheme after a radio advert was banned for failing to make clear that more documents than just a passport or ID card would be needed.
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