New Europeans UK has been building the Civil Society EUSS Alliance since February 2021 when it took over coordination of the group from the Brexit Civil Society Alliance.
NEUK saw the importance and need for a dedicated forum that focused on the EU Settlement Scheme and EU citizens’ rights for groups and organisations across the UK, ensuring a space in which to collaborate and offer peer support, as well as acting as a conduit for changes to legislation to be known and understood, issues on cases discussed, and members to network.
Since we took over coordination the Alliance has increased its membership with over 50 organisations registered. Operating in the context of the pandemic has helped the Alliance to grow, we have worked to ensure there is a diversity of voices, expertise and location contributing to the meetings so that today the group is made up of frontline service delivery, campaigning and policy organisations across the UK. We meet every month to share good practice, raise issues and concerns, and develop a collective understanding and response to policy and advocacy.
A significant number of members are not immigration specialists, and do not receive government funding for the Scheme, and so lack access to expertise, resourcing or networks, whilst others in the group are well established in the policy field, but which do not engage in case work. In this way, the Alliance is a resource in itself.
As a way to broaden members’ understanding of the wider landscape, we have also invited speakers to the meetings, including members of the EUSS team at the Home Office, discussions on how Alliance members can feed into the work of the IMA, the work being done by Bail for Immigration Detainees on EEA citizens in detention, with plans for more guest speakers to come to future meetings.
See some of our guest speakers below:
Whilst the EU Settlement Scheme deadline may now seem like a distant memory, the need for support and advice on the EU Settlement Scheme is still evident across the UK. The Alliance discusses enquiries from those who have not yet applied to the Scheme; those who have family joining them in the UK and are trying to navigate the application process; and those who are still waiting for a decision for their application sitting in the 300,000+ application backlog (Source: Home Office). Not only is the focus on those struggling to apply, or calling for their application to be concluded by the Home Office, the Alliance has been a crucial forum for members to start looking for emerging trends and systemic issues in how applications are dealt with by the Home Office; how vulnerable EU citizens navigate this digital-only immigration status; and how status holders assert their rights in all spheres of daily life – renting, working, accessing welfare and benefits.
What is evident is that managing a new, digital-only immigration status will be a challenge for many over the next 5 years at least. According to Home Office figures, over the 6 million applications have been concluded, the 41% which has been granted Pre-Settled Status will require a new application for Settled Status to be submitted once 5 years of residency in the UK have been accrued, and those who required support and advice to make their initial application may well require help a second time. There is the potential for a rise in reports of discrimination based on immigration status in employment and housing particularly. And the vulnerable status holder – those digitally excluded, with limited English or literacy levels – will require support to manage and prove their status day to day.
Whilst the particular challenges faced by EU citizens with the EU Settlement Scheme and as status holders of a new immigration status are being brought under the broader umbrella of migrant communities by many organisations, the Alliance is instead looking at the rights of EU citizens specifically. It acts as both a responsive and preemptive grouping that enhances the work being done by individual member organisations, but is becoming a significant voice that advocates for EU citizens and the families in the UK. We believe that there is a power in the Alliance’s collective voice to be heard by decision makers, those in the government, and those in the third sector.
By Lydia Martin
Senior Project Development Officer
New Europeans UK
Lydia has worked with minority communities for over 20 years, in the UK and abroad, in community engagement and development.
She has experience of working in, and in partnership with, the third sector, local government, small grassroots community groups, and individuals active in their communities.
Her work has included planning, delivering and managing projects that have focused on creating opportunities for diverse communities to influence local democracy, decision-making and service delivery, alongside capacity building and developing leadership in communities.
She is particularly interested in working with migrant communities to access information and opportunities, make their voice heard, and become agents of change.