The term ‘migrant crisis’ rolls readily off many people’s tongues.
It’s usually used to refer to people from the Global South fleeing war, climate crisis or extreme poverty and trying to reach Europe to find sanctuary and stability here.
For us, though, the term also refers to the conditions faced by people resident in the UK for decades, and kept in conditions of precariousness and destitution, for no tangible useful purpose.
One of those people is ‘Gloria’. She’s now in her mid-20s. She arrived in the UK at the age of 6, and has lived here ever since- her lifetime, basically. Gloria has leave to remain in the UK: she is, if you like, a ‘legal’ immigrant. She was granted 30 months leave to remain by the Home Office in 2018, and that leave to remain expired last summer:. A condition of that leave to remain is that she was not allowed to claim public funds. Gloria was working with children, and saved money from her wages to pay the Home Office’s application renewal fee of more than £2000, on top of which she paid several hundred pounds to a private solicitor. And, since then, she has heard nothing from the Home Office. She made the renewal application before the old period of leave to remain expired. She did, in other words, everything she could to ‘play by the rules’.
She is now pregnant, and is expecting her child in June. She lost her zero-hours job in December, and received no redundancy pay. Since January, we have been writing to the Home Office on her behalf, requesting a decision on her renewal application, and explaining that her circumstances have changed and she urgently needs recourse to public funds. And, since January, the Home Office has been ignoring us.
Gloria presently has no income at all. She has, obviously, accrued rent arrears, and is now facing eviction from her flat. She is at risk of homelessness when she gives birth to her child. She is living off food parcels and hardship payments we are able to source for her. She is, frankly, terrified, as we spiral into yet another ‘crisis’, the cost of living crisis.
A referral has been made to Social Services: they have told her they won’t help, but that she will need to move out of her flat and into a hostel. How she is supposed to be able to pay the rent on a hostel when she has no income and can’t pay the rent on her flat is a mystery, even if it would sense for her to become homeless weeks before she becomes a mother, which it plainly doesn’t.
None of this makes any sense, from any angle. The Government has claimed that denying people, entirely legally resident in the UK, recourse to public funds ‘promotes integration and helps migrants to be financially independent’. As Gloria’s situation indicates, nothing could conceivably further from the truth.
We will get this sorted. We will get appropriate support in place for her accommodation costs, and we will get the matter of Gloria’s recourse to public funds sorted.
But the fact remains that the UK’s immigration system is fundamentally broken. It needlessly, and absolutely pointlessly, throws people into ‘crisis’ after ‘crisis’, leaving them in severe poverty and exacerbating already massive health inequalities.
The whole miserable saga illustrates, quite perfectly, the need for people in Gloria’s situation to be able to access free legal representation and support. And that’s why we’re taking part in this year’s Midland Legal Walk. Please support us if you can.