Campaigners fear thousands of EU nationals living in Fife could be asked to leave this summer because of confusion over their post-Brexit rights.
European citizens must apply for settled status by June 30 if they want to stay in this country. Those who don’t could lose the right to work in the UK, use the NHS for free, enrol in education and access benefits.
Colm Wilson from Fife Migrant’s Forum, said many people were still unaware of the scheme or the looming deadline and he was concerned there could be a deluge of late pleas for help.
He said staff have already processed around 1,500 applications as well as assisting a further 1,000 overseas nationals.
He said: “It’s impossible to determine exactly how many people currently living in Fife still needed to apply but the figure could run into thousands.
“We have two staff just processing applications and nothing else and they are snowed under.
“Among the most worrying are the number of older people who have been here for many years and think because they have got ‘leave to remain’ many years ago they are ok, when for some this is not the case,” he added.
“Some are now living in care homes, where there are also many carers working who have not applied for settled status.
“We are worried because we are finding that this status is becoming a prerequisite to everything, such as getting a job or renting a house.”
The outlook is likely to be similar in other areas.
In 2020 it was estimated that around 209,000 EU citizens lived and worked in Scotland.
A Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants report indicated that one in three care workers surveyed online did not know that there was a deadline to apply for settled status while a third surveyed in person claimed not to know about the settlement scheme before the survey.
Glenrothes and Central Fife SNP MSP Peter Grant said his party wanted the deadline for applications to be extended beyone June and branded the situation was “a disaster waiting to happen”.
He said: “This could see thousands of EU care workers, and many more EU nationals, losing their rights to remain here overnight on July 1.
“This could have serious consequences for the care sector, as well as on the livelihoods of those who have made Scotland their home.”