By Eliza Stachowska, Independent Modern Slavery Advocate at Hope for Justice
Over the last 16 years many people from the European Economic Area (EEA) have come to the UK to study, work, or join their loved ones, and they have called the UK home ever since.
Many arrived hoping for a better life. Unfortunately, some arrived following a false promise of a better life, before their hopes were dashed by their exploiters.
In March 2019, the UK government launched the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) that requires any EEA national living in the UK since before the end of 2020, as well as their families, to apply to be able to continue living and working here before 30 June 2021.
At Hope for Justice, we believe that a survivor’s wish to stay and re-build their life in the UK should be protected following the UK’s exit from the EU. With the scheme’s deadline approaching, we want to ensure that survivors and the agencies supporting them are aware of the scheme, seek advice and apply, as well as let them know the many ways that we can assist.
The scheme poses several challenges for survivors of modern slavery. Their applications are often complex due to the nature of their exploitative work history. It is difficult to evidence the date of their arrival, as often they have no travel records.
Similarly, a lack of National Insurance records, payslips or other evidence to demonstrate the length of their residency can make the application difficult. A lack of national ID card or passport, documents which are often are taken away by traffickers, can also cause delays.
Limited language or digital skills can further complicate and delay the process. The application requires a mobile number, email address and use of an App for ID scanning, as well as a computer.
At Hope for Justice, we help survivors apply by requesting any official documents that could be used as evidence for the application. In some cases, we write a statement to explain the lack of evidence. We have also assisted many survivors to apply and receive new ID cards and/or passports to facilitate the applications.
So far, we have supported 61 EEA nationals and their families through this process. We are delighted that 30 have been granted settled status (indefinite leave to remain), with 17 applications pending, and 14 survivors receiving immigration advice pre-application.
To be eligible, an EEA national must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020. If they have lived here continuously for five years, they will be considered for settled status. Residents of less than five years are considered for pre-settled status, which is granted for five years. Detailed information about the scheme, and eligibility criteria, can be found here.
For any further information in relation to the EUSS scheme or survivor care, please contact myself and my colleagues on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 008 8000.
Additional information about EUSS can be found through:
Link to search option for local organisations assisting with EUSS applications Get help applying to the EU Settlement Scheme – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
EUSS guidance translated into several languages: Apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (settled and pre-settled status) translations – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
To be able to directly assist with the application process, a person or an organisation needs to be OISC accredited to at least level 1. Hope for Justice does not hold this accreditation, so we work alongside other organisations such as The Aire Centre, ATLEU, and Law Centres to ensure each survivor receives the necessary advice and assistance.