Volunteers coming to the aid of stricken Grenfell Tower survivors say that fears over their migration status continues to prevent people from coming forward to seek help. It’s understood that the UK government has faced calls to grant UK immigration immunity to undocumented migrants of the ill-fated, high-rise block of flats in North Kensington, London.
Councillors gathered on Wednesday, 19 July in the latest meeting of the beleaguered Chelsea and Kensington council. They were asked to vote on a motion urging the government to make the current, temporary 12-month UK immigration amnesty – announced earlier in July by the Home Office – a permanent ‘amnesty.’
Calls to grant permanent residency to undocumented migrants who survived the Grenfell Tower tragedy come as volunteer doctors, working in the community impacted by the blaze, reported a slump in the number of people attending weekly clinics operating in close proximity to the tower.
Nick Harvey of Doctors of the World said: “A lot of people seem to have gone under the radar. What we also seem to be seeing – even though Theresa May said that there would be no immigration checks on people who survived the fire – is a concern by some people about putting their name on to the NHS database, too. It’s something that people are afraid of.”
Kensington and Chelsea council at odds with government
According to a report published by The Guardian, the motion Kensington and Chelsea council, where the Tories hold power, were asked to vote on is being moved by Labour councillor Robert Thompson.
He said: “It’s a motion that will put the Tory group at odds with their own government but it is something that they should do because national policy is still failing to take the situation on the ground into account. The main concerns relate to undocumented people not coming forward because of fears about their UK immigration status after 12 months.”
Mr Thompson added that the lack of undocumented migrants coming forward will hinder the Grenfell Tower inquiry because there’s the potential to lose a number of key eyewitnesses. Meanwhile, people are missing out on the provisions that the government has put in place.
The Labour councillor added that the biggest issue is in relation to compassion. He said “These are people who have experienced what is likely to have been the most traumatic thing in their lives, whether they lost loved ones, or were affected in other ways, and they should be granted an amnesty.”
Judith Blakeman, another Labour councillor, has issued a further motion that urges Kensington and Chelsea council to utilise part of its £250 million reserves to give the widest choice of options to survivors of the fire for permanent rehousing. This motion includes a ‘buy back’ lease on development of 32 homes to use them as social housing.
The motion also demands that a number of other named developments be designated to the provision of homes, plus plans to regenerate other estates and housing blocks in North Kensington as a matter of urgency.