Justice for migrants: give people proof of their rights
Justice for migrants: give people proof of their rights
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As with the Windrush generation, tens of thousands of migrants are being wrongly suspended from work, having benefits taken away, or denied housing, with families driven to poverty, hunger and spiralling debt. This is all because the government refuses to give people proof of their right to be in the UK, trapping them in the ‘hostile environment’ policy.
The Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL) is taking the government to court because the system is discriminatory and unlawful.
We urgently need your support to end this injustice.
What is the issue:
When people apply to renew their visa, they are made to wait nearly a year due to Home Office delays. In the meantime, they are placed on what is called ‘3c leave’ – with the right to live and work in the UK as before, but no document to prove it. This created massive problems when the ‘hostile environment’ was introduced in 2012, which excluded people from working, renting, driving, accessing healthcare, claiming benefits, or opening a bank account – and more.
Under this system the Home Office has asked employers, landlords and other civilians to act as border guards, with hefty fines or criminal punishment for getting it wrong. Employers are more likely to suspend workers if they don’t have documentary proof of their right to work, because it isn’t worth the risk.
We have seen this happen to many of our clients, with families attending food banks and children going hungry, others falling into a spiral of debt and desperation. We estimate that each year, at least 63,000 people face serious detriment such as seeing employment wrongly suspended or terminated as a result of having no proof of their status.
The parallels with the Windrush scandal are striking, with people being subjected to extreme hardship due to living in the UK without proof of status, even though they have complied with immigration law.
What are we doing?
We tried to persuade the Home Office to do something about this problem but they did not. We have been left with no option but to take legal action to defend the fundamental rights of our clients, and the tens of thousands of people across the UK whose lives have been turned upside down.
The government could easily make modest changes and provide people proof of their rights – for instance by issuing temporary visa documents to people on 3C leave, or giving them access to prove their status digitally, just as many with visas can do. Time and again the Home Office has been warned about the problems the hostile environment causes to this lawfully resident group, but the warnings have been ignored.
Enough is enough. We will not allow this unfair situation to persist, which is why we are taking the government to court.
As with many challenges to the government’s cruel policies, it has been a team effort. A number of organisations who work with migrants in the community are providing evidence demonstrating the scale of the problem and the immense harm the government’s policies are causing to tens and thousands of people.
This is part of our broader ambition to challenge the hostile environment system.
Our client’s stories:
Our client, Rosina, was left waiting over 2 years for the Home Office to process her further leave to remain application. She was on 3C leave throughout. She lives in the UK with her two British citizen children, including her 12-year-old son, Jesse, who has sickle cell disease and is particularly vulnerable. Despite her experience as a carer – a sector with severe staffing shortages – and her right to work, she has been unable to find work because of the lack of a physical or digital visa document. “A lot of companies wanted to take me on but they wanted my visa, which I didn’t have,” she said. She said “You are in some kind of box on your own, boxed in on your own. You just turn around and there is nowhere to come out. You are stuck in one place and there is not much you can do.”
Linda lives in the UK with her son and receives Personal Independence Payment due to having a disability. She and her son were left waiting almost a year for the Home Office to process their further leave to remain application, during which time the DWP suspended her PIP payments. Once her application was approved, DWP rules meant she had to restart the onerous and humiliating PIP assessment process in order to have the payments reinstated. With the loss of income from PIP, Linda drained her savings just to support her family.
Our 2022 report highlights the enormous scale and severity of the harm caused, alongside personal stories.
Why do we need your support?
We need to raise money to protect RAMFEL from any adverse legal costs arising out of the judicial review process, and to help cover our court and admin fees.
We believe the government’s policy is unlawful and that our legal challenge has a strong chance of success. However, there is a risk that RAMFEL could become liable for costs if we lose the case.
Where will my money go?
All funds raised will go toward protecting RAMFEL from adverse legal costs if the challenge is unsuccessful, and to help cover our court and admin fees for the case.
If we are successful, funds will be put towards emergency destitution relief services that RAMFEL provides.
Our legal team
Our legal team is very experienced in this area of law. We have instructed solicitor Janet Farrell of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, Stephanie Harrison KC of Garden Court Chambers and Shu Shin Luh of Doughty Street Chambers.
The legal team is representing RAMFEL on a Conditional Fee Agreement, also known as a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement. This means they will not be paid if the case does not succeed.
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