Poland’s ambassador in London has written to his compatriots living in Britain urging them to “seriously consider” returning to their homeland because of concerns about the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit EU “settlement scheme”.
Arkady Rzegocki said he wrote the letter after learning that only around a quarter of the 832,000 Poles living there had so far registered to remain in the country after its planned departure from the European Union next month.
“I’m worried,” he told BBC Radio on Wednesday. “That’s why I call for action to Polish citizens who are living in the United Kingdom and I ask them to apply for the settlement status – or just consider to return to Poland.
“I think it’s a very good opportunity to come back,” said Rzegocki, who has been Warsaw’s top envoy in Britain since 2016.
Poland‘s economy had grown for 28 consecutive years and living standards had improved over the last decade, he noted.
“Nowadays I think you can achieve your goals both in Britain or in Poland,” Rzegocki said.
The British government has vowed that all EU nationals living in the UK when the country leaves the bloc on October 31 can stay. But they have to register through an online “settlement scheme” which requires evidence of how long they have been there.
EU citizens able to show they have lived in the country for more than five years will be granted “settled status”, letting them remain indefinitely.
Those resident for less time will be given “pre-settled status”, allowing them to apply for the permanent status once they have clocked up the requisite five years.
Concerns over process
There are thought to be as many as 3.5 million EU citizens in Britain, who have until the end of 2020 to lodge their applications.
The system has so far signed up more than 1.5 million people, the interior ministry said last week. But applicants have reported the system is proving far more arduous and error-prone than promised.
“We’re concerned about this process,” Rzegocki said, noting that “a big number” – 42 percent – of applicants had so far received only pre-settled, rather than settled, status.
“Many people who [have] lived here for 10 or more years gave us information that they also had some problems,” he added.
Britain’s government is adamant the policy is working as planned.
Brandon Lewis, a junior interior minister, refused to acknowledge there were problems in an interview with AFP last week.
“The only people who will have pre-settled status are people who have only been in the country for less than five years,” he insisted.