I was shocked by the answer I got from Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes when I asked her how the Government would treat EU nationals who have been trafficked when they apply for ‘settled status’ in the UK after Brexit.
As part of my work as a Shadow Brexit Minister, I have been closely following the Home Office’s EU Settlement Scheme, which provides for the registration of over 3 million EU citizens resident in the UK. We have a lot of criticisms of the proposed scheme, not least the £65 fee for adults and £32.50 fee for children under the age of sixteen and Labour has been pressing for the scheme to be free.
I asked the Home Office how victims of trafficking and modern slavery would be supported to prove their residency under the scheme and if the fee would be waived for them. Considering Theresa May has described human trafficking as “the greatest human rights issue of our time”, I was surprised and angered to be told that the Home Office plans to charge EU victims of horrific crimes to pay for their right to stay in the UK. Inevitably, many victims will struggle to pay the fee and be at risk of further exploitation without the correct documentation.
The issue was taken up in the weekend’s press and, after further pressure in the Commons, the Immigration Minister said the Government will give further thought to the issue and I will continue to press her on this. You can read more about it here.