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Thousands of EU Citizens Face Possible Legal Limbo in UK As Settled Status Scheme Ends, Says Report

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The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. The EU settlement scheme was designed to offer EU, non-EU EEA, and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members, living in the UK, an opportunity before the end of the transition period to protect their ability to reside in the UK.

A new report has warned that hundreds of thousands of European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their children in the UK are in danger of finding themselves in a post-Brexit legal limbo on 1 July.

The academic campaign group UK in a Changing Europe highlights the fact that unless these citizens meet the government deadline and apply by 30 June for settled or pre-settled status, ahead of the curtailment of the EU Settled Status scheme, their work, rent and retirement rights are at risk.

“If applicants cannot demonstrate they have a ‘right to reside’, they will lose their rights immediately, even if their application is valid. This is likely to impact most severely upon vulnerable applicants with complicated cases. Given delays in processing applications this difference in treatment could become quite significant,” warns the report.

The EU Settled Status scheme grants European Union nationals (as well as those from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and some family members to apply for ‘settled status’ or, if they have less than five years residence, ‘pre-settled status’.

​Alarms have been sounded in “The EU Settlement Scheme” report that while some people have already applied, they are still awaiting a decision from the Home Office.

If they miss the deadline, they may be unable to prove their status when trying to access National Health Service (NHS) services, or travelling.

320,000 people, according to official statistics, are still awaiting a decision on their ‘status – settled status’.
The government has been trying to offer reassurances, saying that those on the waiting list do not need to worry. A “pragmatic and flexible approach” was vowed regarding late applications.

However, Catherine Barnard, deputy director of UK in a Changing Europe and a professor in EU law at Cambridge University, urges people to take stock of the legal implications.

“In order to apply for settled or pre-settled status all you needed to be was resident in the country before 31 December. But in order to be protected after 30 June, if you have not got the status, you have to be exercising EU treaty rights which means you have to be in work, self-employed, a student or a person of independent means,” she was quoted as saying.

Difficulties could be in store for children, the retired or spouses of an EU citizen who are from a non-EU country who have applied for but have not been granted status, underscored Barnard.
Furthermore, older adults who have resided in the country for decades and did not believe they needed to apply for citizenship could be at risk.

​An analysis by UK in a Changing Europe revealed that only 2% of the 5.4 million applications for status fall into the over-65 category. While hailing the success of the EU settled status, Barnard said:

“…It is about to enter a phase that will require sensitive management where the government will need to show pragmatism and flexibility in dealing with difficult cases.”

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 under a negotiated deal – the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement – that provided for an extension of all EU law until 31 December 2020.


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REUTERS / Toby Melville

Brexit Article 50 bill

On that date, EU free movement law in the UK ended, with the Withdrawal Agreement offering a ‘buffer’ to prevent EU, EEA or Swiss citizens finding themselves stripped of EU free movement law rights and without any other lawful residence status on 1 January 2021.

A grace period of 6 additional months was allowed for European citizens and their family members to protect their lawful UK residence status via the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

 



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Delta COVID Variant Reportedly Draws Biden’s Attention, Resources Away From Other Priorities

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Despite high overall rates of vaccinations in the US, more and more Americans are getting infected with the new, rapidly spreading ‘delta’ variant of the coronavirus, once again testing the limits of hospitals and reportedly sparking talks about new mask-up orders from authorities.

The rapidly increasing number of new COVID-19 cases in the US caused by the more infectious delta strain of the virus is frustrating the Biden administration, as the problem draws attention and resources away from other priorities that the White House would like to concentrate on, the Washington Post reported, citing several anonymous sources. Among the problems that the administration reportedly had to de-prioritise are Biden’s infrastructure initiatives, voting rights, an overhaul of policing, gun control and immigration.

The White House reportedly hoped that the pandemic would be gradually ebbing by this time, allowing it to focus more on other presidential plans. Instead, the Biden administration is growing “anxious” about the growing number of daily COVID-19 cases, the newspaper sources said. The White House press secretary indirectly confirmed that Biden is currently preoccupied with the pandemic the most.

“Getting the pandemic under control [and] protecting Americans from the spread of the virus has been [and] continues to be his number-one priority. It will continue to be his priority moving forward. There’s no question,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on 22 July.

The administration had reportedly expected new outbreaks in the country, but not as many as they’re seeing. Current analytical models predict anything between a few thousand new cases and 200,000 new infected daily, the Washington Post reported. Washington also fears that daily deaths might reach over 700 per day, up from the current average of 250. However, the White House doesn’t expect the pandemic numbers to return to their 2020 peak levels.

At the same time, the Biden administration is trying to find scapegoats to blame for the current shortcomings in fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the country. Namely, Biden  last week accused the social media platform of failing to combat the spread of disinformation on COVID-19 and thus “killing people”. The statement raised many eyebrows since many platforms mark COVID-related posts and insert links to reliable sources of information regarding the disease and the vaccination efforts aimed at fighting it. The White House also hinted that the Republican-controlled states became the main sources of new COVID cases, while often underperforming in terms of vaccination rates.



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Sierra Leone abolishes death penalty | Global development

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Sierra Leone has become the latest African state to abolish the death penalty after MPs voted unanimously to abandon the punishment.

On Friday the west African state became the 23rd country on the continent to end capital punishment, which is largely a legacy of colonial legal codes. In April, Malawi ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional, while Chad abolished it in 2020. In 2019, the African human rights court ruled that mandatory imposition of the death penalty by Tanzania was “patently unfair”.

Of those countries that retain the death penalty on their statute books, 17 are abolitionist in practice, according to Amnesty International.

A de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty has existed in Sierra Leone since 1998, after the country controversially executed 24 soldiers for their alleged involvement in a coup attempt the year before.

Under Sierra Leone’s 1991 constitution, the death penalty could be prescribed for murder, aggravated robbery, mutiny and treason.

Last year, Sierra Leone handed down 39 death sentences, compared with 21 in 2019, according to Amnesty, and 94 people were on death row in the country at the end of last year.

Rhiannon Davis, director of the women’s rights group AdvocAid, said: “It’s a huge step forward for this fundamental human right in Sierra Leone.

“This government, and previous governments, haven’t chosen to [put convicts to death since 1998], but the next government might have taken a different view,” she said.

“They [prisoners] spend their life on death row, which in effect is a form of torture as you have been given a death sentence that will not be carried out because of the moratorium, but you constantly have this threat over you as there’s nothing in law to stop that sentence being carried out.”

Davis said the abolition would be particularly beneficial to women and girls accused of murdering an abuser.

“Previously, the death penalty was mandatory in Sierra Leone, meaning a judge could not take into account any mitigating circumstances, such as gender-based violence,” she said.

Umaru Napoleon Koroma, deputy minister of justice, who has been involved in the abolition efforts, said sentencing people on death row to “life imprisonment with the possibility of them reforming is the way to go”.

Across sub-Saharan Africa last year Amnesty researchers recorded a 36% drop in executions compared with 2019 – from 25 to 16. Executions were carried out in Botswana, Somalia and South Sudan.

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[Ticker] EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021

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The European Commission announced it is on track to share some 200 million doses of vaccines against Covid-19 before the end of the year. It says the vaccines will go to low and middle-income countries. “We will be sharing more than 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines with low and middle-income countries by the end of this year,” said European commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

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