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LESSONS TO LEARN FROM UK IMMIGRATION NEWS: (1) WINDRUSH

View profile for Louis Harman
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The last few months have been tumultuous for the Home Office, and the UK Government overall, to say the least.

The issue of UK immigration has been a ‘hot topic’ on the lips of politicians and the general public for quite some time, but the volume of publicity has cranked up to eleven as a result of recent events with no immediate signs of turning back down.

But what can we learn from these headlines regarding Windrush, Brexit and the Home Office removal targets? In this first article in a three-part series, our Head of Business Immigration, Louis Harman, considers the lessons to learn from the Windrush debacle.

WINDRUSH:

Brexit could become ‘Windrush II’

The primary issue in the Windrush scandal is that the Home Office failed to introduce a system to issue immigration documentation to those Caribbean citizens and their families being admitted into the UK. At the time, this system of Commonwealth ‘free movement’ would have seen generous and welcoming, but as UK immigration policies changed over time the cracks began to show. Records that were kept in-house by the Home Office have since, in many cases, been lost or destroyed. The result? Those innocent citizens who may have obtained British Citizenship or Settled Status in the UK are now being expected to prove their own status.

People are being asked to produce documents that they either never had or had no reason to retain.

The EU is very similar. EU Citizens and their families enjoy free movement in the UK. In the majority of cases, no immigration documents are required at all.

As a result of the proposed Brexit transition agreement, the millions of EU citizens residing in the UK will find that between March 2019 and December 2020, the pressure will be on to produce fairly extensive evidence of residence and employment which, before then, they were not required to retain and produce.  

Could you produce 5 year’s, or more, worth of documentation upon demand?

The goalposts being moved here will have a serious impact on the livelihood of many innocent families unless the Home Office treads extremely lightly with the enforcement of its new EU ‘Settled Status’ applications once implemented. The Home Office must avoid a second Windrush scenario.

Scrutinise Home Office decisions

Immigration applications processed by the Home Office are ultimately dealt with by immigration caseworkers – real people. Mistakes and misunderstandings can therefore happen, and they do happen more often than you may think.

A refusal or removal notice should always be given proper scrutiny before further action is taken.

This cuts both ways; too many applicants lodge appeals against refusals on grounds that have no merits, and equally so many more applicants give up on their case not realising that the Home Office were at fault.

In the case of Windrush specifically, it is important to understand that Immigration law changes regularly and even the Home Office cannot always publish and restructure its own internal policy guidance quick enough to make it easy for its caseworkers to make effective and prompt decisions. Where an immigration case involves circumstances that existed under an old legal framework which is not looked at on a regular basis, it is entirely possible for caseworkers to scrutinise an application against modern standards and rules which may be entirely inappropriate.

Make sure you understand your legal status in the UK and always consider getting a second opinion on any immigration application or notice you may be dealing with.

LESSONS TO LEARN

  1. Prepare all immigration applications with great care
  2. Get professional advice on any refusal / removal notices received. Do not take any rash action as mistakes may have been made.
  3. If you do not have immigration documents, protect yourself early. If the Home Office makes the first move, you may find yourself up against arbitrary deadlines.

If you have been affected by the Windrush situation or any of the other points mentioned in this article, do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Immigration team on 01522 541 181 or email Louis.harman@chattertons.com

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