Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex & London says thousands face debt and desperation as they cannot prove status
The Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL) said on Twitter on Friday that it is taking the Government to court for its failure to issue documents to tens of thousands of migrants who are lawfully resident in the UK on what is known as '3C leave'.
As RAMFEL noted in a report issued last October, 3C leave refers to Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 and is a temporary form of status issued whilst a person renews their leave to remain. RAMFEL says the system is discriminatory and unlawful, and it has now issued judicial review proceedings.
The charity, which supports migrants to access justice, has instructed Bhatt Murphy solicitors and is being represented by Stephanie Harrison KC of Garden Court Chambers and Shu Shin Luh of Doughty Street Chambers.
On its crowdfunding page for the legal challenge, RAMFEL explains: "When people apply to renew their visa, they are made to wait nearly a year due to Home Office delays. In the meantime, they are placed on what is called '3c leave' – with the right to live and work in the UK as before, but no document to prove it."
With no formal documentation to prove their status, RAMFEL says migrants are being excluded from working, renting, and claiming benefits. One of RAMFEL's clients said she was on 3C leave for over two years and was unable to find work because of the lack of a visa document: "A lot of companies wanted to take me on but they wanted my visa, which I didn't have."
Thousands of migrants face extreme hardship in a similar manner to the Windrush scandal.
"We have seen this happen to many of our clients, with families attending food banks and children going hungry, others falling into a spiral of debt and desperation. We estimate that each year, at least 63,000 people face serious detriment such as seeing employment wrongly suspended or terminated as a result of having no proof of their status," the charity commented.
RAMFEL says a failure by the Home Office to take simple steps to address the problem has now left it with no option but to take legal action.
"There is no rational basis for the government to not implement modest changes to protect those on 3C leave, but they instead seem determined to waste public funds in protracted and expensive court proceedings," RAMFEL's head of campaigning, Nick Beales, told The Independent last week.
A Home Office spokesperson was quoted by The Independent as saying: "Our guidance clearly stipulates that employers should provide individuals with every opportunity to demonstrate their right to work and must not discriminate against those with an outstanding application. We have set out a long-term vision to ultimately move away from providing physical documents that evidence immigration status and the move to digital means in future we can amend a person's digital record in real time, helping to make it easier for people to accurately reflect their immigration status."