Earlier this week The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched a ‘LondonIsOpen’ bus on a four-day tour of the capital, providing crucial advice and guidance to European nationals who wish to remain in London post-Brexit and who have been left in limbo by the Government during the continued uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations.
The bus began its journey visiting areas of London with high numbers of European nationals the day before Government launches its EU Settlement Scheme. This is the process that EU citizens and their families will need to apply for if they wish to remain in the UK after it leaves the EU.
The bus, staffed by immigration lawyers, working pro-bono, and volunteers offering free advice and information, has been providing crucial reassurance and guidance to EU Londoners whose rights have been overlooked during the Brexit process.
The change to the rights of EU nationals is by far the biggest alteration in immigration status for a generation. The Mayor is concerned that it has caused a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty for the more than one million EU citizens who have made London their home, and for their families and friends.
Covering ten boroughs in four days, the roadshow is hoping to help City Hall engage with hard-to-reach communities and vulnerable European Londoners who are most at risk of not applying for Settled Status. Community centres, libraries and employers such as Westfield and Heathrow Airport are among the stops on the route.
The bus, branded with ‘We Are All Londoners’ in European languages, marks the latest part of the Mayor’s London Is Open campaign, which aims to show the world that, despite Brexit, London is united and open and that EU Londoners still belong here.
Alongside this, the Mayor is also launching the full version of City Hall’s online EU Londoners Hub. This Hub supports EU Londoners through the Settled Status process and includes information on how to access expert legal guidance, translation services and other crucial information.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“I know that many Londoners who are EU nationals are still unsure about their future and the process they will need to complete in order to remain here. I am absolutely appalled that the Government has left our EU citizens feeling this way.
“I’m delighted to launch our LondonIsOpen bus today, which will be travelling around the capital and helping EU Londoners apply for the Government’s Settled Status scheme, while also sending out the message that they are Londoners and our capital will always be their home.
“EU citizens make an amazing contribution to life in London and are part of the fabric of this city – from nurses to teachers and construction workers to business people, they work hard, pay their taxes and play a major role in our civic and cultural life.
“The least we owe these Londoners is to make it as easy as possible for them to stay in the UK after Brexit.”
The route has been specifically selected, following engagement with community groups, to ensure the bus visits venues in parts of the capital with the highest populations of EU Londoners, particularly those most vulnerable.
Tahmid Chowdhury, Co-founder of Here for Good, an immigration advice charity, who will be on the bus, said:
“We’re proud to continue our partnership with the Mayor of London, building on our EU Londoners Hub work to take volunteer lawyers across the capital to communities that need their support.
“Citizens’ rights represent the human challenge of Brexit. As a young but committed charity, we’re focused on helping those who need our help to stay here for good.”
Joanna Mludzinska, Chair of Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) in Hammersmith, one of the destinations for the bus, said:
“The UK’s decision to leave the European Union created substantial uncertainty for over 3.5 EU nationals who made Britain their home and invested in their future here, including just under a million Poles, of which some 200,000 live in the capital. Many of them have moved here over the last 15 years, but others have been here for decades, dating as far back as to Polish soldiers who settled here after the Second World War.
“We are proud to be working with the Mayor of London and East European Resource Centre to provide them with necessary reassurance and support in what is likely to be a stressful process of applying for settled status and to make sure they continue to feel here at home.”
Professor Amanda Broderick, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of East London, the first destination of the bus, said:
“Diversity is a core value at the University of East London and also one of our significant strengths. Our students come from a myriad of backgrounds, with over 140 different nationalities represented, and we are committed to strengthening the diversity of the talent pipeline.
“Our European students, staff, neighbours and business associates are an integral part of the University of East London community, and we are proud to partner with London Mayor Sadiq Khan and City Hall to offer free legal advice and guidance to EU nationals at our Stratford Campus. The University of East London is open to everyone.”
Earlier this week, the Mayor announced that he is awarding micro-grants of around £5,000 to six different community organisations who are supporting EU Londoners with help and information to stay in the UK after Brexit.
This is the programme’s second round of funding, building on a previous tranche of £20,000 given to nine community organisations at the end of last year.