The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has urged the UK Home Office to simplify ‘complicated and expensive legal routes to UK immigration’ in a new report. The call comes as Home Secretary, Priti Patel, presses ahead with her ‘New Plan on Immigration’, which seeks to restrict more existing routes to settlement in Britain.
According to the JCWI’s report, the UK immigration system ‘actively and needlessly creates insecurity, is extremely over-complicated and expensive, while also leaving people trapped in limbo.’
The JCWI said: “Migrants are considered temporary for a decade and our research shows that people are forced to reapply for the right to remain in their homes and jobs every 30 months, at a cost of thousands of pounds per person each time.”
Lose UK immigration status
Meanwhile, people can lose their UK immigration status should their renewal time coincide with any kind of personal crisis, and ‘every part of their lives become criminalised’.
The charity is now urging the Home Office for new, simplified routes to regularisation and long-term settlement in the UK, and help with securing or re-securing status after five years of continuous residency.
The JCWI is also demanding UK visa fees be made more affordable, visa renewals are made automatic and birthright citizenship.
Policy advisor at the JCWI and author of the report, Zoe Gardner, said: “People who call the UK home deserve dignity, security and the chance to put down roots, but our current immigration rules routinely deny people this opportunity, trapping them in a cycle of fees, forms and hostile immigration rules which make life unliveable.”
“Many migrants are expected to pay over £12,000 in fees over the course of a decade and must renew their status every 2.5 years. Throughout this time, they are kept in limbo and left fearful that they will fall out of status,” she added.
Small application error
Ms Gardner also stated that any small application error or a period of sickness can throw people off course, which exposes them to the UK immigration hostile environment policy and puts them at risk of losing their jobs and their homes.
“Unsurprisingly, these rules systematically render many people undocumented, pushing them into exploitative work, poverty, and abuse. It’s time government stopped criminalising migrants for falling off the maze-like route to permanent status, and instead created accessible, affordable pathways for migrants to get back on track,” Gardner said.
JCWI client, Adedayo, explained how he had become undocumented for 10 years after the Home Office refused to renew his visa after suffering from clinical depression. He said: “I felt like a prisoner with no way of escaping – I was trapped in exploitative work for years, earning just £3.50 an hour and trying to support my family with next to nothing.”
Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy
“I wouldn’t wish what my family has gone through on my worst enemy. The Home Office needs to start listening to us and treating us with dignity, instead of pushing us into the hands of people willing to exploit us and away from all support.”
Following the JCWI’s report, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Our UK visa and immigration fees are kept under review and we offer several fee waivers and exceptions from the need to pay an application fee.
“Illegal working undercuts honest employers, puts vulnerable migrants at risk of exploitation, cheats legitimate job seekers out of employment and defrauds the public purse. Tackling this damaging crime is a key government priority.”
The spokesperson added: “The government is bringing forward a New Plan for Immigration that is fair but firm, which will stop the abuse of the system and expedite the removal of those who have no right to be here.”
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