“At a time when the cost of living is rising rapidly, unfair and discriminatory immigration policies are pushing people whose futures are in this country into serious financial hardship.”Zehrah Hasan, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
By Sam Browse
After Rishi Sunak signalled a renewed commitment to the hostile environment last week, over 50 equality and human rights groups are calling on Labour to ramp up the opposition and take a fairer, more compassionate approach to settling migrant communities.
They say Keir Starmer must back 5-year routes to permanent residency and cap visa fees, to help end ‘the cycle of poverty and precarity that continues to harm so many migrant families and communities this winter’.
Currently over 170,000 migrants are on a 10-year route to settlement, which costs most individuals over £12,800. A disproportionate number of people on this visa pathway are on low incomes, and at higher risk of poverty and housing insecurity.
Zehrah Hasan, Advocacy Director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said, ‘people who’ve made the UK home deserve dignity, security and the chance to thrive, but the 10-year route to settlement routinely denies people this opportunity, trapping them in a cycle of extortionate fees as well as complicated and hostile immigration rules which make life impossible.’
‘A family of 4 can end up paying £50,000 over the course of decade, just for the right to stay here. Throughout this time, the government keeps them in limbo, forever anxious about visa fee payments, and the prospect of being pushed into a hostile environment which bars them from safe work or bank accounts.’
‘As this government’s failure to tackle the cost of living crisis continues, and more migrant families are pushed to the brink, Labour must take a stand by backing 5-year routes to residency and affordable visa fees. No family should be living in fear and poverty because of where they were born.’
Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, Praxis’ Policy and Public Affairs Manager, said, ‘at Praxis, we see every day the impact of cruel government policies that keep people waiting for years on end, with precious little certainty about their futures.’
‘At a time when the cost of living is rising rapidly, unfair and discriminatory immigration policies are pushing people whose futures are in this country into serious financial hardship – and simultaneously denying people in crisis access to support. We know that this will have long-lasting detrimental consequences for families and communities.’
‘If Labour really wants to be the party of ‘working people’, it must commit to ensuring that people can escape the insecurity and poverty created by long routes to settlement and punitive immigration policies. We call on the Labour Party to pledge to cap all routes to settlement at five years instead of an excruciating ten, reduce visa fees so they match administrative costs, and ensure everyone can access a public safety net at a time of crisis – no matter the small print on their visas.’
Migrant Voice, another charity joining these calls, have argued that having to save for expensive visa fees every few years means many of the people they work with ‘are unable to feed their children properly, with some parents forced to miss meals, and many more forced to access food banks’.
The signatories say ‘the Labour Party must listen to the experiences of people’ on the 10-year route and commit to centring ‘humanity, dignity and compassion’ in their immigration policy.
- You can read the full letter here.