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EU citizens’ group protests at online right-to-work checks

10/09/19

Parliamentary Correspondent

A group representing EU citizens in the UK have protested at a decision to introduce online-only right-to-work checks, warning it will lead to discrimination.

'Brexit' on Union Jack

They say the change – due to come into effect in 2021 – will force them to go through a nine-step process to prove they are eligible for employment, instead of simply handing over a passport.

In contrast, citizens from elsewhere in the world will only have to produce their biometric residence permit, a physical document, to prove their right to work.

“We're extremely concerned that this disproportionate online-only right-to-work process will lead to discrimination against EU citizens,” said the3million group, which represents EU nationals in the UK. “Especially in industries relying on casual labour and arts and entertainment where short term assignments are very common.

“Thus, we are demanding that EU citizens also receive a form of physical document that proves their right-to-work. Proof is crucial to cut red tape and avoid discrimination.”

It added: “The Home Office claims that online is the future. We disagree strongly.”

Under the radar

The organisation alleged the decision had been made “under the radar of the public and press”, which were distracted by the Brexit crisis at Westminster.

The Government has already been strongly criticised for the decision not to provide EU citizens granted the right to remain after Brexit with any physical documents to prove that right.

Earlier this year, the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee warned that a “breakdown of the electronic system” would hit hard, because they will receive only an electronic code, plus an email or letter, which would not amount to legal proof. It pointed to the danger of “discrimination when employers or service providers find it too complicated or troublesome to engage with electronic systems”.

Employer right-to-work checks have also been fully online since earlier this year, but the3million group said this was also a step backwards for EU citizens.

“Access to a computer/mobile device is needed and a 10-step process, in comparison to just photocopying one physical document and noting down the date,” it added.

Adding to fears

The criticisms add to existing fears about the ‘settled status’ scheme, which must register up to 3.8 million people by June 2020, or six months earlier if there is a no-deal Brexit.

In December, UKAuthority reported how users had reported that the phone app for registering was riddled with problems in trials. That controversy came on top of a previous row over the app not working at all on iPhones, but only on Android devices.

There are also concerns that the Home Office requires the EU citizens to allow their data, including photos, to be shared with other public and private organisations at home and overseas.

Image by Swissbert, public domain through flickr

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