LIBERAL Democrat candidate for the Orkney and Shetland seat in the forthcoming general election, Alistair Carmichael, has condemned the legal limbo many EU citizens living in the Northern Isles are experiencing as a result of the Brexit process as “disgraceful”.
Around 50 EU citizens out of over 400 who have so far applied for settled status have yet to receive a conclusive response from the Home Office while another 120 have received ‘pre-settled’ status which only grants a temporary right to remain in the UK.
As the UK may leave the EU on or before 31 January 2020, EU citizens who want to continue living in the UK have to apply for ‘settled status’ by 30 June 2021. Should the UK leave the EU without a deal the deadline for ‘settled status’ applications is 31 December 2020.
Anyone who has been living in the UK for more than five years has the right to receive ‘settled status’ while those who have been living in the UK for a shorter period can apply for ‘pre-settled status’.
The application process has left many EU citizens anxious as to their rights to continue living in the UK. Others have said they are appalled to have to register in the country they call home.
Carmichael said citizens from the EU member states were making a positive impact on life in the Northern Isles.
“They have enriched our communities and make important contributions to our economy and our culture. They are our neighbours, colleagues and our friends, as much a part of the social fabric of the isles as anyone,” he said.
“It is disgraceful that so many of the EU nationals who have chosen to build families in the Northern Isles are being left deeply anxious about their right to stay. They deserve better than this legal limbo created by the Government.”
“Brexit has led to many people feeling unwelcome in the places where they have made their homes.
“That this is happening under a government that infamously created a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants should not come as a surprise. We must push back against those who would seek to divide us based on nationalism.”
The candidate urged anyone with concerns about their settled status to get in touch with the Orkney or Shetland constituency offices. These remain open to help with urgent casework, including immigration issues, throughout the election period, he said.
The other four candidates confirmed to stand in the Northern Isles are David Barnard (independent), Coilla Drake (Labour), Jenny Fairbairn (Conservatives) and Robert Leslie (SNP).