Tens of thousands of EU citizens may have wrongly received benefits after Brexit

Almost 150,000 EU citizens were paid benefits in error post Brexit - MarioGuti/iStockphoto
Almost 150,000 EU citizens were paid benefits in error post Brexit - MarioGuti/iStockphoto

Tens of thousands of EU citizens whose applications to stay in Britain were rejected may have been wrongly paid benefits, it has emerged.

A data error meant European nationals who were turned down for settled status after Brexit continued to receive payouts to which they weren’t entitled.

The Home Office, which was responsible for the mix-up, has said it will contact those affected following reports the Government will look to recoup the cash.

It is feared many of the almost 150,000 EU citizens who were refused the permanent right to remain in the UK may have continued to get the cash.

European nationals who were eligible for benefits before Brexit had to successfully apply for “settled status” to keep their payments.

Between June 2021 and April last year the Home Office did not update its visa database to flag the 146,148 people whose applications were rejected.

Their files were labelled as “pending” within the system, meaning those who did not immediately appeal their decision continued to receive benefits.

Officials said this was done because the Brexit deal meant they had to protect the rights of people who wanted to dispute the outcome of their case.

Brexit rights watchdog

The revelations came in a letter to the Home Secretary written by the Brexit rights watchdog and seen by the PoliticsHome website.

In the letter, the Independent Monitoring Authority demanded answers on how the error occurred and “what steps have already been taken to remedy” it. The Home Office did not say how many people were affected by the mistake or how much money is estimated to have been wrongly paid out.

The blunder will reignite the debate over Britain’s bloated benefits system and fuel accusations that taxpayers’ money is being wasted.

It comes with ministers poised to launch a drive to get many of the country’s nine million jobless people back into the workplace to boost the economy.

A government spokesman said: “The online digital status for some EU Settlement Scheme applicants who were refused status has been updated in line with the decision taken on their application, which had already been communicated to the individuals concerned.

“We are working across government and with the EU and member states to understand any further implications and to ensure the situation is managed quickly and pragmatically.”