We need a physical document to prove our rights
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In order to be able to survive in the UK, everyone has to be able to navigate the ‘hostile environment’.
The Government deliberately created this hostile environment in 2012 - effectively delegating its border control responsibilities to service providers like employers, landlords, banks, schools, universities, the Department of Work and Pensions, and the NHS. You have to prove you’re legal at every turn.
Currently, British citizens and EEA/Swiss citizens can do so by showing a passport, non-EEA citizens by showing an immigration document. (See for example page 3 of this Right to Rent Guidance, and page 7 onwards of this Right to Work Guidance).
From December 2020 however, EEA/Swiss citizens will no longer be able to prove their rights by using their passport.
Instead, we will need to prove we have pre-settled or settled status, using a digital-only status.
So what is the problem with proving pre-settled or settled status?
This is where it gets extremely problematic – we won’t have a physical proof of our status.
Instead, consider what happens if someone wants to prove their right to work to a prospective employer. They first need to access their status via a website, by providing their passport / ID number and some security questions. They then fill in the employer’s email address, the system attempts to send an email with a code to the employer, who then needs to find another website, enter the code along with some security information, and finally sees a screen with a photograph and proof that the citizen has a right to work - not very simple right?
We argue this is unacceptable, for a whole host of reasons.
Wasn't there a petition about this? How did the Government respond?
A petition to demand physical documents as proof of settled and pre-settled status was rejected by the Government, with their main argument being “The EU Settlement Scheme protects the rights of EU citizens in UK law and gives them a secure digital status, which unlike a physical document, cannot be lost, stolen, damaged or tampered with”. We provide a lengthy solid rebuttal of their response here, for those of you interested in the detail.
We all know the risks of digital-only systems, almost daily we experience and read about systems being temporarily unavailable, hacked, records breached. But even more shockingly, we have already seen specific problems with settled status.
There is the case of a Dutch woman whose settled status photograph was swapped for a different photo, without her knowledge or consent. Her status was tampered with.
There is the case of a German citizen who checked their settled status one day and found the photograph had completely disappeared. Their status was damaged.
This citizen then tried to check that they would still be able to access their right-to-work check – it failed! Their status was lost for all practical purposes.
The error message stated that they need instead to use their backup physical proof – EU passport or national identity card, or biometric residence card. After 2020, this will no longer be an option.
A digital only status is a recipe for disaster, which will cause widespread discrimination and anxiety. There are many in our society who struggle with digital skills - these government approved statistics show 22% of people do not have the Essential Digital Skills needed for day-to-day life in the UK. Some citizens are being helped to get status, but are then not able to access that status when they need it without needing further help.
We want a status that is ours - with proof that we can hold in our hands – not a status that could disappear or be altered or tampered with by the Home Office or malign agents without our knowledge or consent.
For more detailed information:
http://www.t3m.org.uk/EUSS_PhysicalDocuments - which sets out the3million’s arguments against a digital-only status
http://t3m.org.uk/t3m_rebuttal_physicalproofpetition - a detailed comprehensive rebuttal of the Government’s arguments for rejecting a petition asking for physical proof of status.
Finally, our publications library page lists our campaigning and lobbying documents all the way back to 2016.