Inadequate resourcing means that ‘significant doubts’ remain over the Government’s ability to register millions of EU nationals for settled status in the UK, the BMA has warned.
Increased staffing and support must be given to the Home Office so that it can meet the ‘substantial challenges ahead’, according to evidence submitted by the association to the home affairs select committee’s inquiry on immigration and the delivery of Brexit.
The warning comes after former director general of immigration enforcement David Wood claimed that officials were struggling to deal with the influx of EU citizens’ wishing to apply for the right to remain in the UK post-Brexit.
The BMA’s evidence says: ‘On 17 October 2017, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, confirmed that the Home Office had recruited 700 extra immigration caseworkers and was looking to recruit a further 500 staff before April 2018 to help register the more than three million nationals currently living in the UK. This suggests that the Home Office does not, yet, have the capacity to register EU nationals already in the UK.
‘Guaranteeing the rights of these nationals living and working in health services across the UK is a key priority for the BMA. Ongoing uncertainty and insecurity risks having a destabilising effect on the medical workforce, affecting morale and causing a great deal of stress to those whose futures remain uncertain.’
A recent BMA survey of almost 2,000 European Economic Area doctors working in the UK, found that 45 per cent were considering leaving the country, with more than a third of this number having already formed plans to leave.
The UK's impending exit from the EU and uncertainty over their future immigration status, were among the key motivations for leaving for doctors among this group.
Following an announcement in June, the Government said that it would seek to introduce a settled status’ for EU citizens that had been living and working in the UK for five years prior to a still unspecified cut-off date.
At the same time, prime minister Theresa May promised to introduce a simple process enabling EU citizens holding permanent residence to trade this for the new settled status.
While endorsing the proposals in principle, the BMA is now urging ministers to give greater clarity on the details of how the plans would work in practice.
It said: ‘While we cautiously welcome the Government’s commitment to introduce a “simple process for any EU citizen who holds permanent residence under the old scheme to swap their current status for UK settled status”, key concerns remain.
‘These include the lack of information on the scheme, the administrative burden this will place upon those EU nationals who will be expected to undertake it, including our members, and also the capacity of the Home Office to administer a system which will require them to register the more than three million EU nationals currently in the UK.’
Read the BMA’s Brexit briefing on immigration
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