EU citizens are facing an “anxiety inducing” race against time and battle with bureaucracy to get settled status before the deadline.
The EU settled status scheme closes at midnight Wednesday and those who do apply risk being unable to legally work, rent or access support in the UK.
The Government has said those who have not received a decision will have their rights protected until one is made.
But campaigners are warning that thousands of people are facing discrimination because of a long backlog in processing forms. Some 5.6 million applications were made to the scheme by the end of May 2021.
Last week there was an estimated backlog of 400,000, with 10,000 to 12,000 new applications being made daily.
“The proportion and cost of the aftermath of this breakdown may be of humanitarian scale, and it really can be avoided.”
Olaf Meys, 54, who is originally from Germany, moved to the UK to work in Harley Street in 2000.
He received his settled status in April after a four-month wait.
“There are parallells between what is happening here and what happened in Germany in the 1930s,” he said.
“The Government know who I am. Why are they putting me and thousands of people through this anxiety?”
The EERC recently helped an elderly woman with presumed dementia, who has lived in the UK for over 40 years, to apply as she was unaware of the impact of Brexit on her status.
The woman received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) warning of the withdrawal of her pension and housing benefit if she did not receive an EUSS decision by July 1, the charity said.
Ms Drozdowicz added: “This wave may well clash with a wave of welfare and homelessness crisis once furlough is ended for all, we need to avoid social and economic cost and prevent the human tragedy that will undoubtedly follow.”
Nadine Goldfoot, partner at global immigration firm Fragomen, said thousands of EU nationals “face becoming illegal immigrants overnight”.
She said: “[They face] losing the right to start a new job, rent a new flat and unable to access non-emergency health care despite having lived in the UK for many years and with applications yet to be determined or appeals pending.
“The Home Office has gone to extraordinary lengths to make settled status applications as easy as possible, and we would urge it to adopt the same approach to individuals with undetermined status and allow them to continue to work, draw benefits and access healthcare.”
‘Left in limbo’
Many European nationals who applied to the settled status scheme have said they have been left “in limbo” and have been unable to speak to anyone about the progress of their application.
One EUSS applicant, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Standard he first came to London in September 2019 before returning to France at the start of the pandemic.
He applied for pre-settled status on May 9 and has been left in limbo ever since – with just one day to go until the scheme’s deadline.
“I still haven’t had any answer after more than a month and a half,” he said. “I tried to send emails and they only answered me once saying that I should call.
“I tried to call and it was impossible to get an operator even after waiting for an hour and 20 minutes, I tried to call every day and never managed to get someone on the line.
“Apart from the wait which was to be expected as it was the end of June, the way it was difficult to get information on my pre-settled status really shocked me, it was almost impossible to get an update on [the] application.”
A Home Office spokesperson said EU citizens who have submitted an application by June 30 “will have their rights protected in law and will be issued with a certificate of application”.
The document can be presented to employers and landlords and verified by the government’s checking service.
They added: “As we near the June 30 deadline, our Settlement Resolution Centre is seeing a surge in calls but continues to help thousands of customers every day.
“We want to prioritise those who haven’t yet submitted an application and who need additional support to do so, so if you have already made an application please do not call to check.”