The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have opposed the UK’s move to charge European Union citizens to secure the right to stay in Britain after Brexit. Source: Crux.
The bishops said the charge is “not only unprincipled but will also create a barrier for larger families or people facing financial difficulties”.
The UK government has established a “settlement scheme” for EU citizens residing in the country, but whose right to live in the country comes under a cloud after Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019.
The government has said that EU adults will have to pay about $A120 to register under the scheme, with an additional $A60 to register each of their children.
“We understand that, especially for people who have contributed to our society over many years, it may feel unjust and divisive that they are now required to apply for permission to stay. We also expect that some people, particularly those who are already vulnerable, may face difficulties in practically accessing the scheme, leaving their immigration status at risk,” said Bishop Paul McAleenan, the spokesperson on migration and asylum for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
He said the bishops “strongly oppose” the decision to charge people for applying for settled status.
“The Catholic Church in England and Wales stands in solidarity with all EU citizens who have made their home here. As the majority are themselves Catholic this is a special pastoral concern for us,” he said in a statement last Thursday.
“The Church has experienced first-hand the extensive contribution that people from across Europe have made to our society. They are an integral and valued part of our parishes, schools and communities. We also recognise the evidence that immigration from Europe has not undermined opportunities for UK citizens, but rather brought considerable economic and social benefits,” the bishop said.
The bishops’ conference has brought its concerns to the government, and Bishop McAleenan said the bishops will continue to lobby officials as the scheme is implemented.