News & Views Monday 14th January to Sunday 20th January 2019  

Home Office Announces Repayment for Slavery Victims After it Unlawfully Cut Their Support

The Home Office has announced a repayment scheme for modern slavery victims after its decision to slash their financial support was ruled unlawful by the High Court.
More than 1,000 potential victims of trafficking had their weekly benefits cut by over 40 per cent – from £65 to £37.75 per week – after the reduction was implemented without consultation with those affected or their support providers.

Evidence presented to the High Court in November from two victims of trafficking who brought the challenge and from charities showed the detrimental effect the cuts had on trafficking victims.

The Home Office was ordered to make back-payments which could exceed £1m after the judge ruled a “very substantial cut imposed unilaterally” by the department was taken on “a false basis and cannot stand”.

Now the department has put in place a process  o those affected receive a full back payment “as soon as possible”.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

Fighting Immigration Law Advice Deserts

Immigration law is one of the few areas of legal practice where it is a criminal offence for anyone who isn’t accredited to give advice (even if the advice is accurate). Advisers must be either legally qualified and regulated, or registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). Anyone who falsely holds themselves out as qualified to advise on immigration law risks criminal prosecution; the worst offenders will go to prison. Immigration is also an area of law where the number of people needing advice vastly outstrips the number of qualified advisers available.

In some areas of the country, there are now no immigration law advisers at all (or none offering a free service). As a result, migrants are left unable to access legal support, or having to travel long distances to get it. For migrants of all kinds, building a life in the UK is contingent on securing their immigration status; most will need expert help to navigate the complexities of Home Office application processes. Without legal input, applications may be incomplete, inaccurate or delayed, leaving those who would be entitled to regularise their status, facing destitution, as they are unable to work or claim welfare support, or at risk of removal back to a country where they are not safe.

A survey by Refugee Action and NACCOM (No Accommodation Network) found that 76% of 92 organisations surveyed were finding it difficult to refer people needing immigration advice on to legal representatives; 86% said finding places to refer people was more difficult now, than it had been before the cuts introduced by the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act.

Read more: Fiona Bawdon, Justice Gap,

Children of Single Parents and Sole Responsibility

When both parents decide to relocate to the United Kingdom, they are permitted to bring their children along as dependants. This opportunity is available to Tier 1 migrants, skilled workers (Tier 2), some students (Tier 4) and those settled in the UK.

The child or children must be under the age of 18 and evidence must be included to show they will be adequately accommodated and financially maintained whilst in the United Kingdom. In the cases where EU citizens have dependents who are children, they can accompany them to the United Kingdom as their dependent children until they are 21.

A difficulty arises in the cases where only one of the parents plans to relocate to the United Kingdom. The Immigration Rules require the parent to satisfy one of the limbs of the test below:  ‘There are serious and compelling family or other considerations which make exclusions of the child undesirable and suitable arrangements have been made for the child’s care”

Or “The applicant’s parent [the one coming to the UK] has had and continues to have sole responsibility for the child’s upbringing”

Sole responsibility, according to the relevant Guidance: “means that one parent has abdicated or abandoned parental responsibility and the remaining parent is exercising sole control in settling and providing the day-to-day direction for the child’s welfare”

This can be a complex matter and often involves a complex and cultural matrix.

In situations where the other parent is deceased, the rules for sole responsibility do not apply, however, evidence of the other parent’s death is required. 

Posted by: Gherson Immigration,

What Price Safe Motherhood for Migrant Women in the UK?

It’s surely a basic human instinct to want to protect children and help them flourish. Additionally, women have a right to access all NHS maternity care whether or not they are able to pay for their care. Good quality services led to improvements in maternal and child health but it appears those gains were fragile. What was taken for granted is now not afforded to all who live here.

Systems in place in the UK seem designed to grind down the spirit, resilience and resources of pregnant women and new mothers who need them most.

Safety needs vigilance and clinicians must not be drawn in as unwilling bystanders to a loss of safe care. The National Institute of Health and Social Care Excellence has special guidance for pregnancy with complex social factors.

Although specific groups of poverty and migrants are not spelled out, these undoubtedly are high risk pregnancies. The women described in the report are migrants, and mostly destitute. When NICE guidance for maternity care is undermined by charging, there will inevitably be poor health outcomes for mothers and babies. These are real people, not pawns in a game of political point scoring.

Read the full report:

British Nationality by Descent

Asked by Ian Murray: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent consideration has been given to allowing residents who are British by descent to gain citizenship.
Answered by: Caroline Nokes: The British Nationality Act 1981 defines who is a British citizen. A person who is of the first generation born outside the United Kingdom to a British citizen would usually be a British citizen by descent. There is no difference in the quality of citizenship between those who are British citizens by descent and those who acquire it by birth, registration or naturalization in the UK. All have the same rights and access to services in the UK or consular services while overseas.

A person who is a British citizen by descent cannot usually pass on that citizenship to a child born overseas unless they were in Crown service at the time of the child’s birth. However, if children are born overseas to a British citizen by descent, the legislation contains provisions for a child to be registered where a continuing connection with the United Kingdom is demonstrated.

Written question – 205253

UK Immigration Health Surcharge Doubles

As of 8 January 2019, the UK Immigration Health Surcharge fee has been increased from £200 to £400 per year for any migrants from outside the EU looking to come to the UK for more than 6 months. The Immigration Health Surcharge fee for those applying under the Tier 4 and Tier 5 routes will also be doubled, rising from £150 to £300. All migrants who make an application on or after 8 January will have to pay the significantly increased charges.

The authorisation for these changes, signed by the UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes on 18 December 2018, has caused controversy, with many claiming that it is unfair. Migrants coming to the UK to work under the Tier 2 visa category already have to pay tax, which goes to fund the NHS.

So what exactly is the Immigration Health Surcharge? The Immigration Health Surcharge applies to anyone from outside the EU looking to live in the UK for a period exceeding 6 months. The surcharge gives migrants in the UK access to a wide range of NHS services, without incurring additional charges with the exception of prescription fees.

It has been estimated that the increase in cost will provide an extra £220 million per year to the NHS, however this increase has been the subject of confusion, especially due to the fact that the Home Office or Department of Health are yet to issue an official statement. It also remains unclear at this stage whether the surcharge will apply to EU citizens after Brexit.

Posted by: Gherson Immigration,

Women Rescued from Forced Marriages Will no Longer Have to Repay Government Loans

British women saved from forced marriage abroad will no longer have to repay the government for the cost of their rescue, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced, after a public outcry over the loans. Mr Hunt said victims who were helped to return to the UK by the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit would in future be treated as “exceptionally vulnerable people” in need of help when it came to repatriation costs. Women’s rights campaigners reacted angrily to revelations last week that the government was charging for emergency repatriation. Those unable to cover the costs of plane tickets, food, and shelter directly were being made to take out a loan with the Foreign Office. Mr Hunt said that after careful consideration, he had decided those helped by the unit would no longer be asked to take out such loans.

Read more: Independent,