Bishops in the United Kingdom have welcomed a government U-turn over a plan to charge European Union migrants to apply to stay in Britain. Source: The Tablet.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Monday that she would abolish the fee of $118 (£65) that all migrants from the European Union, except for Irish citizens, must pay when they apply to stay in Britain before the country leaves the EU.
Under the plan, EU citizens who have lived in Britain for five years or more could apply to remain in the United Kingdom after March 29. They will no longer be made to pay to apply, and those who have already done so will be reimbursed. The plan was included in a raft of measures aimed at obtaining support in Parliament for an amended Brexit deal.
Westminster Auxiliary Bishop Paul McAleena, the head of migration and asylum at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “I am pleased that the government has abandoned plans to charge EU citizens for securing their existing rights.
“As I conveyed to the immigration minister earlier this year, such charges would not only be unjust, but would also create an unnecessary barrier for many people accessing the settlement scheme,” he said in a January 21 statement posted on the bishops’ conference website.
“The Church stands in solidarity with all EU citizens who have made their home here, and we will continue to engage with the government as the scheme is implemented,” he said.
Britain voted to leave the EU in a June 2016 referendum in which the high levels of migration emerged as a key issue of concern.
About 3.7 million EU citizens are resident in the UK, and since Poland joined the EU in 2004, some 800,000 Poles have migrated there, making them the largest ethnic minority in the country.
Some 1.3 million British citizens live in other EU countries, and both Britain and the EU are keen to protect the rights of their citizens and to offer them a legal route to remain where they are after March 29.