MORE than 200 families in the Strabane area will face being “kicked out” of the country, if they fail to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Organised by the British Government in the midst of the on-going Brexit debacle, the scheme pertains to all EU citizens living locally. It even applies to those born here but who remain EU citizens.
Urging families to act now rather than waiting for further Brexit complications, Kamini Rao of the Strabane Ethnic Community Association (SECA) says people remain worried.
She says Brexit even had such a profound effect on one Polish family, that they returned to their home-land without waiting on this scheme.
“Basically this is for EU nationals that are living here,” she explained. “If you’ve lived here for longer than five years, you’re entitled to settled status. But if you’ve lived here for less than five years then you need to apply for pre-settled status. If you’re an EU national you have to do this.”
She continued, “So far I think I’ve sorted about 20 families. Yesterday I had four families in back-to-back. It was crazy.
“But I would like to get everyone in Strabane sorted as quickly as possible, at least by October because you never know how things are going to go with Brexit.
“I think there are 200-plus more families, and that’s including the surrounding areas like Castlederg and Newtownstewart.
“People don’t need to have this done until 2020, but it’s worrying for those who are affected,” Ms Rao explained.
“If they don’t do it, they’ll basically be kicked out.”
Ms Rao explained that the application begins through an app on a smart phone and then is finished on a website, www.gov.uk.
Applicants also have to show proof of residence.
“I was nervous when this first started because I didn’t know what to expect and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” she explained. “I know this will sound weird but I actually do enjoy the process because when a family’s application is finished you could tell they were so relieved, that they don’t have to worry any more. They were constantly worrying up until that point, that they might be sent home.
“The system is good, I think. It’s straightforward and it’s translated into 24 languages as well. But I would rather people come down here for me to do it because then I’ll know that it’s done right. Some people wouldn’t know what to do.”
She concluded, “Hopefully we can get everybody sorted. The best advice is come down and get this done. Don’t delay.”
For further information contact Kamini Rao on 028 71886419.