Jeremy Corbyn has denounced Tory plans to crack down on EU citizens after Brexit – warning they could become a “Windrush on steroids”.
Labour’s leader said plans being worked up by hard-right Home Secretary Priti Patel risked dwarfing the chaos caused by the Windrush scandal that erupted last year.
Windrush threw thousands of former Commonwealth citizens, who arrived in the UK before 1973, into legal limbo when they were asked to produce documents that didn’t exist.
An estimated 83 were removed and 112 detained by the Home Office since 2002. More than 2,000 had to have their status confirmed by a taskforce set up in the wake of the scandal.
Now Priti Patel has been warned she risks a similar scandal by cracking down on freedom of movement for EU citizens on Day One of a No Deal Brexit .
Critics say it will be difficult for Border Force to separate EU citizens who have the right to live in Britain from those who do not have that right.
Speaking at the Business and Technology Centre in Stevenage, Mr Corbyn said: “Priti Patel has announced that freedom of movement here in every form will end on October 31.
“It is an utterly ludicrous position she has adopted.
“Does that mean that a European Union national living in this country, possibly as a doctor, a nurse, a trauma surgeon, all kinds of things, goes home to see their family in Germany or Czech Republic or wherever else, they are not allowed back into this country?
“Is this another Windrush, on steroids?
“It is a ludicrous proposal.
“We rely on a lot of European nationals to maintain our industries, maintain our education services.”
He added: “I’d just say to Priti Patel, cut the nonsense, and don’t impose this again.”
The MEPs added British expats living in the EU could also be “distressed” due to fears other countries will retaliate and scale back their rights.
Ms Patel is working with Boris Johnson on new measures to kick in immediately if the UK crashed out on October 31.
They include “much tougher” criminality checks from Day One on EU citizens entering the UK. Downing Street declared: “Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on October 31.”
But campaigners warned a stricter system would be “chaos” because there are still questions over how the government will tell new EU migrants apart from those who have a right to live in Britain.
But it’s not known how Border Force will separate these “new” EU citizens from those already in the UK – if they are, for example, returning after a holiday to the Continent.
More than a million EU citizens living in the UK have been granted settled or pre-settled status, which will be proof that they are eligible to stay.
But an estimated two million have not yet applied, and the current deadline to apply is only the end of 2020.
Because of this, former Home Secretary Sajid Javid had suggested there would be a “sensible transition period” if there was no deal.
But new Home Secretary Priti Patel takes a much harder line on immigration – and a source told the Independent she wants to “to toughen the Home Office’s stance”.
A Home Office spokesman said yesterday: “EU citizens and their families still have until at least December 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and one million people have already been granted status.
“Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on 31 October when the UK leaves the EU, and after Brexit the Government will introduce a new, fairer immigration system that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather than where they come from.”