The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has settled its legal action with the government over the EU Settlement Scheme following changes to the system. The revisions address concerns that the detailed rules for the scheme would allow the Home Office to deny settled status to more EU citizens than previously thought, contrary to political commitments made since the Brexit referendum.
The Home Office has made three concessions off the back of the litigation:
- A previous decision to remove an EU citizen from the UK is no longer a mandatory reason to refuse settled status. Caseworkers may still deny settlement on this basis, but only where it is proportionate to do so. This change to the Settlement Scheme rules has already been made.
- Officials will not refuse settled status because of a deportation order more than two years old without considering “whether there has been a material change of circumstances since the deportation order was made”. The deportation must continue to be “justified on the grounds of public policy, public security or public health”. This change has been embedded in guidance for caseworkers since 21 January.
- The caseworker guidance will also be changed to confirm that EU citizens do not meet the threshold for removal from the UK “solely because they are a student or self-sufficient person who does not hold comprehensive sickness insurance”.
The draft consent order — a court document stating the terms on which the case has been settled — also confirms that nobody will be refused settled status because they have not been working in the UK, or only working part-time. As with the comprehensive sickness insurance point, it is extremely surprising and a touch worrying that this needed official clarification. The government has consistently said that the only real qualification for settled status is residence in the UK.
JCWI had begun legal action last year, saying that the detailed rules “require some EU citizens that they promised would be allowed to stay to be denied status”.
The Public Law Project, which represented JCWI in the judicial review claim, says that the “during the litigation, the Home Secretary has adopted many of JCWI’s requests to make sure that the rules for settled status better reflects what the Government told everyone about the scheme, and results in more proportionate and fairer decision making”. JCWI “will pursue their outstanding concerns about the scheme via their campaign[ing] and policy work”.
It has been a very good week for JCWI. On 1 March, the organisation won a comprehensive High Court victory in which the government’s Right to Rent scheme was held discriminatory and in breach of human rights law.