MORE than 20,000 EU citizens in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole have applied to live and work in the UK after Brexit, according to the Home Office.

The EU Settlement Scheme allows resident EU and Swiss citizens, plus those from the European Economic Area countries, to apply to continue living and working in the UK.

Most of the applications in the BCP area are from Polish, Romanian and Portuguese nationals.

The Government has hailed the process as a success, saying it has received more than three million applications so far.

But EU 'rights' campaign group the3million claims that even a small percentage of individuals missing out means misery for thousands.

Official figures show that 20,320 applications were made in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole up to the end of last year, of which 18,400 were finalised.

Of those, 10,910 applicants were granted settled status, meaning they have a permanent right to remain in the UK. A further 7,390 were handed pre-settled status, which gives them permission to keep living in the country and the chance to reapply once they have done so for five years.

The rest of the applications had other outcomes, such as being refused, withdrawn or void, or invalid. A total of 3,920 applications have been made across the Dorset Council area.​

More than three million EU citizens have applied to live and work in the UK after Brexit, according to the Home Office, and more than 2.7 million have been granted permission to remain.

The national figures cover up to the end of January.

Home Secretary Priti Patel described the programme as the “biggest of its kind in British history”, which would mean “EU citizens can evidence their rights for decades to come”, adding: “It’s now time for EU countries to adopt a similar scheme.”

But Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million, said the figures do not shed light on those who don’t apply, are refused unlawfully or discouraged from applying.

She added: “Just a small percentage of individuals falling through the cracks means misery for tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people. Those people will face the full force of the hostile environment and the Government have so far avoided to say how it will handle those cases.”

In Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, Polish nationals made the most applications up to the end of December (4,910), followed by people from Romania (2,870) and Portugal (2,390).

Italy and Spain were also common places of origin, with 1,970 and 1,700 respectively.

Across the UK, Polish (512,310), Romanian (435,690) and Italian (290,990) nationals submitted the most applications.

Relatives of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who are not from any of those countries themselves but live in the UK under EU law are also allowed to apply.

Successful applicants can stay after the deadline on June 30 2021 once the Brexit transition period and freedom of movement end.

They can use the NHS, study and access public funds and benefits, as well as travel in and out of the country.

In the conurbation, 10 per cent of applications were from under-18s, while just three per cent were from people aged 65 and over. The figures for the age groups nationally stood at 14 per cent and two per cent, which Ms Bohn described as “worryingly low”.