Today’s Times carries a major investigation into the huge profits made by the Home Office under the current system requiring undocumented young people to pay thousands of pounds seeking to regularise their status in the UK.
The piece includes analysis by Marianne Lagrue, Policy Manager in Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) who describes the system as ‘a game of snakes and ladders without the ladders’, and a feature with Michelle Ezeuko and Melvin H Clarke, some of Coram’s youth rights trainers, who share their personal experiences of the complex and expensive system. Marianne and Michelle were also both interviewed on Channel 4 News, urging the Home Office to act to make the process fairer, more affordable and faster.
In her analysis for The Times, Marianne Lagrue said:
“The hostile environment created a set of policies designed to deprive people of some of the fundamentals of life: work, medical treatment in hospital, maternity care, rented homes, bank accounts, driving licences.
Equally insidious is how difficult it has become for undocumented people to get and keep legal status in Britain, even for those with legally strong claims to stay.
The immigration system not only punishes those who are undocumented, it creates more undocumented people because they cannot always navigate the complex, long and extremely expensive system for applying to remain in the UK. This system is at the heart of the hostile environment.
The undocumented young people supported by Coram have some of the strongest claims to stay, growing up British in all but legal fact. Those aged 18 to 24 are eligible to apply for temporary status if they have lived in the UK for at least half of their life. Meeting the condition of long residence is only the beginning, however. In the hostile environment, only those who can pay can stay.
In 2012, a young person making an application on the basis of growing up in the UK had to pay £281. Now the application costs £2,033. That young person must then make repeated applications, keeping hold of their legal status for ten continuous years before they can apply to stay in the UK permanently. They could be pushing 40 before they become eligible to apply to naturalise as a British citizen. This is the opposite of integration.
Being unable to pay the next fee often means a person falls out of status and must start the process again. They are sent back to square one in a game of snakes and ladders — without any of the ladders. If they pay the fee four times and reach the end of the game, permanent status costs them £2,389, then citizenship £1,330.
Hostility is built in to this bureaucracy and it works for no one. Complexity and fees leave thousands of young people in legal limbo. The new home secretary has the chance to build a system which values young lives and promotes integration. Pathways to settlement must be affordable, fast and fair.”