Maike Bohn is one of the co-founders of the 3million campaign group, which fights for EU citizens living in the UK. (Image: BristolLive)

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Priti Patel is needlessly terrifying thousands of elderly Brits by threatening to take their pensions and health care away.

The cackhanded Home Secretary thinks they are EU citizens about to miss the deadline to apply for post-Brexit settled status by June 30.

But because of a Home Office failure to properly check the data held on them they are in fact British.

Yet Ms Patel has still sent them letters saying they will no longer get state pensions or free access to the NHS from next month unless they get the papers they do not need.

EU citizens without settled status will also lose benefits and the right to work.

Have you been sent a letter by the Home Office? Let us know in the comments.

Many have been too terrified to speak out after the Windrush scandal
(Image: Getty)

But those who received the letter had to get to page two before they are told this does not apply to British citizens.

Critics say that should have been in bold type on page one so recipients would not be alarmed.

Although the Sunday Mirror has testimony from several of those affected they are too frightened to speak publicly because of the Windrush scandal.

One grandmother said: “The Home Office has made one mistake by sending me the letter. I am not confident they will not make another and stop my benefits.”

The 'threatening' letter many have been sent even though they are British citizens

A former immigration insider said: “I can understand their fears. The Windrush generation had every right to be here.

“Yet hundreds were removed because the Home Office messed up the paperwork.”

Former Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said: “All this anxiety could have been avoided if only the Home Office had checked its own databases.

“The Home Office has issued British passports to all those affected by this error. All it had to do was check its own data to see who holds one.”

The Windrush scandal, which broke in April 2018, saw the UK government apologise for deportation threats made to Commonwealth citizens' children.
(Image: Getty)

Even German-British dual national Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3Million which champions the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, had one of the letters despite being granted British citizenship in 2018.

She said: “Its concerning the Home Office sends frightening letters and is not able to exclude those who have naturalised decades ago.

“It’s not in the spirit of the “friendly” new Home Office we have been promised. Many people have been scared by these letters and justifiably so.”

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has also tackled the Home Office about the errors.

He said: “This is ridiculous. I can’t understand why this would happen. But when mistakes happen they should be put right.”

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Ms Patel is no stranger to gaffes. Last year she muddled up her figures and said 300,034 974,000 Covid tests had been carried out. She meant 334,974.

And earlier this year she said outdoor recreation was permitted in a “restricted and limited way” during lockdown. It was prohibited.

The Home Office refused to say how many letters have been sent or what data matching took place.

They went to those born in Europe who have not signed up to the scheme, regardless of their current nationality.

Pensioners were most upset because they have been here the longest, many for decades.

The settlement scheme was introduced in March 2019 and processed 2.5million EU citizens before Priti Patel took over the Home Office in July that year.

Since then the scheme has been beset by delays and with the end-of-month deadline fast approaching up to 600,000 applications are still outstanding.

The Home Office says the information came from files held by the DWP and HMRC.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster added: “In trying to reach as many people as possible, there may be a small number of instances where these letters are sent to recipients who are naturalised as a British citizen.”

By the end of last month five million EU citizens had successfully applied for settlement.