EU citizens face repeat of Windrush scandal
Landlords have said that EU citizens living in the UK are at risk of facing some of the same difficulties caused by the Windrush Scandal by a lack of legal certainty around their status after Brexit, and have called for hard copy documents for EU citizens.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which represents more than 30,000 landlords in the UK, has written to the home secretary, Sajid Javid, demanding that EU citizens are provided with a hard copy document to prove their status to avoid confusion over their right to rent in the UK.
Under the right to rent rules of Theresa May’s hostile environment policy, landlords are required to check the immigration status of potential tenants or risk prosecution.
The Home Office has suggested it will send successful applicants a digital code to present to employers and landlords as evidence of settled status.
But the RLA says there is already evidence that landlords are not renting to those who cannot easily prove their status with a single clear document such as a passport – in echoes of the Windrush Scandal that saw people with Caribbean backgrounds deported, as well as refused jobs, houses and healthcare.
The letter, signed by the RLA policy director, David Smith, and Nicolas Hatton, the chief executive of the3million grassroots movement for EU citizens in the UK, reads: “Without issuing a clear and understandable hard copy document to those whose rights would be protected, there is a very real danger of a repeat of the difficulties caused for many in the Windrush Scandal who were in the country legally but unable to easily prove it.
“Such a document must be issued now so that, as tenancies come up for renewal between now and next March, landlords can be confident that they can continue to let to EU citizens, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
The Brexit select committee, chaired by Hillary Benn, has previously highlighted similar concerns with the digital code system.
In a report the committee said: “We are concerned that the Home Office is introducing a new system on a large scale, which relies upon employers, or landlords, understanding and embracing a new way of working.
“This might work well for many, but for some the risk of a civil penalty for employing or renting to someone without the correct immigration status, and a lack of understanding of the new system, may deter them from employing or renting to EU citizens, or create difficulties in enabling their status in other circumstances to be confirmed. We call on the government to issue a physical document to EU citizens.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and to our society. The prime minister and home secretary have been clear that – while we are all working hard towards achieving a deal – in the event of no deal, all EU citizens resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay, their rights will be protected and they will be able to live their lives broadly as they do now.
“In a deal scenario, EU citizens’ rights and entitlements remain unchanged during the implementation period, so they can continue to demonstrate their rights using a passport or national ID card. The draft withdrawal agreement also protects EU citizens and their family members who are resident in the UK before the end of the implementation period and enables them to carry on living here after the implementation period ends.”