A Dundee Holocaust survivor described the experience of applying for settled status after Brexit like something from “the horrors of her past” and the process left her feeling as if “any goodness was sucked out of me like a syringe”.
A second opposition day debate was held by the SNP calling for an extension to the scheme to allow European Union citizens who lived and worked in the UK before the end of 2021 to stay in the country permanently.
MPs voted against extending the deadline on Wednesday evening with Home Office minister Kevin Foster saying late applications submitted after June 30 would “still be considered”.
One of the last UK Holocaust survivors
Dundee West MP Chris Law raised the case of Irena Jendrycha, 77, who was born captive in a Nazi concentration camp in 1943. She was a mere “10 minutes” from death before American troops liberated the young girl and her mother in what Irena described as “an act of God”.
After surviving the horrors of the fascist death sites, Mrs Jendrycha moved to the UK at the age of four as a refugee and had lived and worked in the country since, making Dundee her home, Mr Law said.
Despite applying for settled status on time, Mr Law added, Mrs Jendrycha still does not know whether it has been successful.
“She has since spent her life here. She was married here, she has worked here, and in fact, she has never even left the UK after arriving all those decades ago,” he said.
“Irena is one of the many millions who has had to apply for the EU settlement scheme.
“She is one of the UK’s last Holocaust survivors and she told me that the application process made her relive every horror of her past and left her overwhelmed on every level.
“In her own words, she described it as ‘any goodness within me was sucked out of me like a syringe’.
He continued: “Irena made it clear to me that she was appalled by politicians and Government ministers who every year will pose for pictures, speak in debates, and attend events remembering the Holocaust, yet are willing to make so many people like her feel unwelcome due to this hostile regime.
“She contacted my office last week as she still did not know if her application had been successful or not and as I speak now she is still uncertain.
“However, Irena has one question for this Government: ‘Why are you putting me through this? I have to re-live it, through every horror….. I went through this at school and now I am going through it again’.”
Late applications will be considered
Government minister Mr Foster said the deadline for applying to the scheme fell on June 30, adding that as of that date, in excess of six million applications had been received, with “more than 5.4 million of them already concluded and more than 5.1 million grants of status issued”.
He added: “Overall these numbers are significant just in themselves. Despite all the warnings about our potential willingness and ability to deliver, literally millions of EU citizens in the UK and their family members now have their status protected and their rights secured under UK law.”
“We do believe that given the sheer scale of applications, the vast and overwhelming majority of those who live here in the UK have applied, but I think we do need to remember that it would be impossible to put a final figure on it.
“Any application posted on June 30 is also considered to be in time… We will assume any application received in the post until midnight tonight was posted in time.”
Government says no “second Windrush”
Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart told the Commons that the EU Settlement Scheme would help to avoid another Windrush scandal.
He said the assessment system “is the best way to deliver our commitment to EEA citizens who have made the UK their home”.
He added: “And, in fact, is the best way to prevent another Windrush-type situation from happening.”
Mr Stewart said: “On the other hand, a declaratory system could lead to a situation like Windrush where EU nationals do not have sufficient evidence to prove their status and entitlements in the UK.”
Following the debate, SNP shadow Home Secretary Stuart McDonald said: “It is utterly shameful that Tory MPs have voted against an emergency extension to the EU settlement scheme, and have taken a decision which will leave thousands of EU citizens at risk of losing their rights to live and work in the UK.
“The UK is heading full steam towards another Tory Windrush scandal. EU citizens who have lived in the UK for years and decades could lose their rights and face the full force of the hostile environment.
“Boris Johnson promised EU citizens that they would get automatic leave to remain – but, yet again, he has broken his word and thrown EU citizens under the Brexit bus.
“Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, yet, Scottish Tory MPs have failed to back an emergency extension to the settlement scheme — threatening the rights of EU citizens across Scotland.
“Scotland’s message to EU citizens is you’re welcome here, we want you to stay, this is your home. These people are our friends, colleagues, neighbours, and family members. It is shameful that they are being treated in this way by the UK government.
“The treatment of EU citizens is more evidence that Scotland is increasingly vulnerable under Westminster control. The only way to keep Scotland safe is to become an independent country with the full powers to regain our place in Europe and protect our rights as EU citizens.”