Susan van de Ven

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon Learn more

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Settled Status, Scared to Celebrate

by Susan van de Ven on 25 March, 2019

A phone call came through from my friend, the 80-year old local resident with a German passport living in Britain for no less than 50 years, asked to prove the right to continue living here ahead of Brexit unknowns.

Working together with neighbourhood friends and the local MP’s office, at last the bureaucracy had been overcome.

The adventure included:

1. Paying the £65 Settled Status fee, knowing that a full refund would follow, because Theresa May recently decided to scrap the fee that must still be charged, as bureaucracy hasn’t yet caught up. More bureaucracy added to bureaucracy; part of the growing Brexit Industry. One British industry that’s not in decline.

2. Getting set up on email to provide and receive information and confirmations. Friends set up an email account on their home computer and act as conduits. There’s no facility for that level of assistance via county library services.

3. A visit to Heidi Allen’s constituency office to have necessary documents scanned – specially arranged as an alternative to travelling to Hatfield or London council offices set up with scanning devices. The chip on the German passport had to be captured in the scanning process; the notorious Android App had previously failed but thankfully the technology worked this time.

So what next? The obvious move, it seemed to me, was to head down to the nearest pub for a celebratory drink.

‘Oh, no, the place would clear out if we did that – people don’t want me here!’

This took me by surprise, given that such good neighbours had made it their business to do everything they could to help their elderly friend secure Settled Status and peace of mind.

But not all neighbours. Another felt it would be appropriate for this [derogatory word] person to ‘go back to Germany where they belong.’

‘It makes me understand a bit what it must be like to have skin of another colour.’

And, ‘Sometimes when people hear my accent they ask, Are you from Yorkshire?’

In the end we agreed that the occasion must still be marked, albeit quietly.

‘Welcome’ won’t be the right word for a toast, as it would only serve to spotlight the perversity of having to apply for Settled Status after 50 years, and the backwards step that Brexit is all about when it comes to building a community.

Friendship and hope – that will do.

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