EU nationals have just weeks left to apply for settled status in Midlothian
Thousands of EU nationals have been granted permission to continue living in Midlothian ahead of this month's application deadline.
But a research hub at York University warns that many people in the UK will miss the fast-approaching post-Brexit "cliff-edge" and risk becoming illegal migrants overnight.
Around 3,270 people successfully applied to the EU settlement scheme in Midlothian by the end of March, according to Home Office figures. This was 220 more than the 3,050 who had been successful by the end of December, when the Brexit transition period ended.
EU citizens who have lived in the UK for at least five years, and meet certain criteria, can receive settled status and remain in the country indefinitely if they apply by June 30.
Those who have lived in the country for less time can obtain pre-settled status, and the chance to reapply for settled status once they have done so for five years.
In Midlothian, 2,280 applications had been granted settled status by March 31, and 990 pre-settled status – with 80 applications either refused, withdrawn or deemed invalid. The highest number of applications were submitted by people from Poland (1,620), followed by Italy (320) and Romania (220).
The EU Rights and Brexit Hub, a legal research facility at York University, say this month's hard deadline is not necessary, and represents an "imminent timebomb".
Professor Charlotte O'Brien said: "The universal rule of deadlines is that people will miss them.
"Those who miss the deadline will become, overnight, unauthorised or illegal migrants, subject to a hostile environment and possible removal. It means they will go from being lawful, in many cases long-term and economically contributing EU citizens, to people who cannot lawfully work, rent, or even drive a car."
Kevin Foster, minister for future borders and immigration, said if an EU resident has "reasonable grounds" for missing the deadline, they will be given further opportunity to apply. He added: "The Home Office has also made up to £22 million available in funding for a network of 72 UK organisations to help vulnerable people apply the scheme, and has invested nearly £8 million in marketing campaigns to encourage people to apply to the EUSS."
Scotland’s Europe minister is calling on the UK Government to extend the deadline for the scheme to avoid "another Windrush scandal".
Jenny Gilruth MSP said: “The risks for EU citizens who do not apply to the EUSS by the June 30 deadline will be life-changing – they won’t be able to work, study, claim benefits, drive a car or open a bank account.
"In short, their lives will be turned upside down.
“We know that thousands of eligible fellow citizens living in this country have yet to apply."
Across the UK, 385,000 people applied to the EUSS between January and March – down from 855,000 in the three months to December, and 713,000 during the first three months of last year.