It’s a cold and cloudy November weekend, but the irresistible smell of cinnamon and mulled wine brings the spirit of Christmas alive at the Scandimarket in Rotherhithe, London. People wander from stall to stall, looking for unique knitwear and handmade gifts, or some tasty Scandinavian food. But there is more to be had here. Between the stalls offering presents and nibbles there’s one that provides some hope and comfort for EU Citizens who have made London their home.
Thanks to the Mayor of London’s London is Open campaign, a team from Settled, Here for Good and Seraphus, have set up a stall, ready to answer questions and offer support and advice on the EU Settlement Scheme. This outreach work is supported by the EU Commission. It is aimed at reaching EU Londoners who are uncertain about how to secure their immigration status after Brexit, or face obstacles in the application process. This outreach work complements the online resource provided by the EU Londoners Hub, which offers guidance in all official EU languages, as well as Somali, Arabic, Bengali and Russian.
The people we met at the market included citizens form the EU 27 nations, who settled in London a long time ago and had obtained Indefinite Leave Remain shortly after they arrived. They were not sure whether they had to reapply again. Some others thought that, since they arrived over 10 years ago, the scheme did not apply to them, but was only for recent arrivals. Or people were not sure about the documentation they needed to provide for the application, or if they had to be in employment to be able to qualify for Settled Status.
The volunteer lawyers form Seraphus and Here for Good were kept busy with questions regarding non-EU family members. The process of linking these applications to their EU citizen relatives is far from simple and straightforward and guidance from a qualified and accredited immigration advisor is often required. Or, in the very least, they can offer the reassurance that the applicants are following the correct process and have all the documentation they need. The team assisted an elderly gentleman with an application for his son. They had been unaware that after scanning his passport, they had to send the rest of the application by post.
Altogether, it was a great experience to be able to support and reassure so many different people of all ages and with different circumstances and backgrounds. We had not been sure how many people would respond or whether they would engage at all. But during the three days we informed and supported 450 people with their queries. It goes to show how diverse, inclusive and open London really is. To top it all, we had a visit from Santa, that great migrant for whom borders do not exist. He promised us that he would spread the word and help us make sure that no one will be left behind.