By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
Thousands of European citizens across London will have to apply for settled status if they want to remain in the country after the UK leaves the EU.
But the latest figures show that in Merton more than 12,000 people have still not been granted settled status – for those who can show they have been in the country for at least five years.
This includes Mitcham resident Maciej Psyk, pictured above, who moved to London 15 years ago.
As a graduate in political science, he started his working life in London as a street cleaner.
The 40-year-old said: “When I moved here my English was not very good, even after learning it at school.
“Working as a street cleaner gave me the time to improve my English.
“I was mainly working with other people from Poland and the majority of the crew were immigrants.
“I don’t want to forget that experience, in a way it enriched me and gave me confidence in myself. I learnt from the other side that you should treat everyone with respect.”
He worked in this job for more than a year before becoming a driver and working in a warehouse.
For the past few years he has been working in office jobs, most recently as a pensions officer for Surrey council.
He now hopes to complete a course in IT with the hope of becoming a data scientist.
Back in 2017 Maciej was granted permanent residency by the Home Office.
But despite this, if he wants to continue living in the UK after June 30, 2021 he must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
“Before the 2016 referendum there was a promise that the status of EU nationals wouldn’t be changed,” said Maciej.
“People are forced to apply for settled status which is basically the same as permanent status – this legal limbo will worsen month after month.
“I’ve been in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau and been to a seminar for EU citizens.
“In order to understand the process I want some proper information so I ordered a settled status handbook that has more than 100 pages.
“If not for the referendum and the outcome we would not have this settled status.
“In 15 years I have never been on the wrong side of the law and have been working whenever I can.
“To have to apply for this is humiliating for myself and for many other people in this situation.”
He said that the new situation has made him feel as if he is not welcome here.
Maciej said: “I came here with the intention to make the UK my home but I don’t know whether the UK wants me to be their citizen at this moment.”
“I don’t think that the UK as a country can function properly with so many people feeling this way, with EU nationals doing all kinds of jobs from agriculture to building.”
Merton Liberal Democrats are backing a national call for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK.
Of the 30,220 EU nationals in the borough who have applied for permanent residency, only 17,270 have been granted settled status.
In all 2,470 EU nationals living in Merton have applied to the Home Office scheme but are still waiting for a final decision to be made.
Another 10,200 have been given only temporary pre-settled status, meaning they will have to reapply within five years or be forced to leave the UK.
Paul Kohler is a councillor for Trinity Ward and Wimbledon’s Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesman. He said: “Too many EU nationals in Merton are deeply anxious about their right to stay. With the uncertainty of Brexit, it’s disgraceful to leave them in legal limbo like this.”
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