Sajid Javid, the home secretary, will begin his new job by facing a number of complaints from the European Parliament about the UK government’s proposed system of granting EU citizens “settled” status in the country.
In the wake of the scandal over the treatment of the Windrush generation that cost Javid’s predecessor her job, the parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has warned that MEPs found significant problems with the UK’s plans for EU citizens and were anxious over the plight of the most vulnerable applicants.
Home Office officials, who met the European parliament’s representatives last week, disclosed that the app for those applying for settled status, which Amber Rudd had said would be as easy to work as an online shopping account at LK Bennett, would not operate on iPhones, used by the majority of the adult UK population. Officials suggested those with iPhones could borrow an Android phone to complete their application.
MEPs were told that applicants under 16 years of age, who are not eligible for a biometric passport, would not be able to complete the application process online but would be required to send in their passports to the Home Office. Families will not able to complete joint applications, raising concerns that individual members of a household could find themselves being treated differently.
“As it is clear that the technological solutions proposed by the Home Office will not have a universal application, it is incumbent on the Home Office to put in place alternative practical arrangements, one form of which should be an offline registration system,” Verhofstadt said. “We believe that forwarding passports in the post is not an option in this context, given the risk of loss and the impact on citizens’ capacity to travel.”
The European parliament, which will have the right to veto a withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK, also calls for applicants to receive an answer on their status within two days to avoid “unnecessary anxiety”.
MEPs are seeking further information about what steps should be taken by applicants who have a criminal record and “the use of fingerprints data that will be collected during the scanning process of biometric passports”.
Verhofstadt said: “I can only urge you to go to all lengths to dispel any fears that what was visited on the Windrush generation will not be repeated with respect of EU nationals living in the UK. I would like to reiterate the importance of these issues for the European parliament and recall that finding effective solutions will be key to determining its consent.”
The former Belgian prime minister also raised the “error rates of IT systems” and the need for greater clarity over the proposed independent authority overseeing the system.