THE concerns of EU citizens settled in Scotland are reaching “peak levels” of fear and frustration as “Brexit day” approaches, the Sunday National has heard.

Those from countries across Europe, now living in Scotland, spoke out about fears ahead of March 29 – when the UK is due to leave the EU – warning that they could miss out on settled status due to problems with a process which they claim completely lacks clarity and in which they have little trust.

Despite assurances from the UK Government that there will be a presumption towards granting status, some claimed their documentary evidence had failed to meet the required threshold. Others said the application system, launched at pilot stage on Monday, was beset by technical difficulties.

It is claimed UK Government hostile immigration policies, which had impacted people from round the world who have settled – or wanted to settle – in Scotland, have destroyed trust in the system.

READ MORE: How Scots EU citizens are approaching Brexit uncertainty​

While permanent settled status – granted to those settled in the UK for five years or more – should protect people, pre-settled status, granted to those arriving until December 2020, can be removed.

The co-ordinator of campaigning group EU Citizens for Indy, Ash Burnett, said that though the decision to waive the £65 fee, announced last Monday, was welcome, significant issues remained, especially for vulnerable people and those in remote areas.

The Home Office’s own estimates suggest around 10% (360,000 UK-wide) will miss out on settled status, she noted. There is only one ID check in Scotland – in Edinburgh – which means a 140-mile trip for some of the group’s members.

“[There are] no offers of actual support or advice to applicants,” she added. “For these reasons we are working with other citizens rights groups to ask the Scottish Government to direct funds that would have been used to cover public sector settled status fees to provide a support and advice forum for all those in Scotland subjected to the hostility of the UK immigration system.

“With only nine weeks until ‘Brexit Day’ all our fears and frustrations from the last two-and-a-half years are coming to a peak levels of fear and frustration.”

READ MORE: Brexit uncertainty a 'major concern' for Scottish businesses

On Friday a report from the EU Citizens’ Rights Project found that the Brexit vote was having emotional and practical impacts on EU citizens.

The study highlighted that though EU citizens feel welcomed to Scotland they are insecure about their future and worry about the outcome of negotiations.

“Asking EU citizens about Brexit is a bit like opening Pandora’s box,” said project co-ordinator, Dorota Peszkowska. “People are worried about everything; Brexit’s impact on the economy and standards of living, one’s right to stay and travel, jumping through the Home Office’s hoops, attitudes towards immigrants – the list goes on. Detailed questions about data security come side by side with general queries like: ‘Will we be allowed to stay?’”

The National:

Drew Hendry, SNP MP (pictured above) said that issues with EU immigration were now becoming an issue in his surgeries. The MP has been supporting those struggling with Home Office decisions, such as American couple Russell and Ellen Felber, who face deportation despite building up a successful B&B business in Inverness.

He said: “We have health professionals, doctors, who are now concerned about their future here.” One had his proof of residence rejected in the application process. “Other MPs have similar cases,” added Hendry, who repeated calls to devolve immigration.

“We are contacted regularly by EU citizens who are petrified by the process. They have seen how the system can turn on them. People are terrified of the UK Home Office.”

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Ben Macpherson, Minister for Migration, Europe and International Development said: “We deeply value the huge contribution of all those who have chosen to make their home here. The Scottish Government will continue to do all it can to support EU citizens through this troubling period.

“However the UK Government has failed to engage with EU citizens in an effective manner, and even now, many are unaware of the need to apply for settled status. Those that are aware remain confused about the process and it is clear this is having an effect on the well-being of EU citizens.”

He said a new Scottish Citizen’s Advice helpline, funded by the Scottish Government, would be fully operational by March.

A Home Office spokesperson insisted that the EU Settlement Scheme, which will be fully open by March 30, 2019, will “make it easy for EU citizens who want to stay in the UK to get the immigration status they need”.

“Applicants only need to complete three key steps – prove their identity, show that they live in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions,” he added. He confirmed family members would still be able to join EU nationals, and could apply for settled status is they did so by December 2020.