Liberty condemns Government approach to Grenfell Tower immigration cases and calls for permanent amnesty

10 July 2017

Liberty’s annotated version of Home Office guidance exposes a compassionless policy that will force undocumented survivors to choose between necessary services and removal. 

The Government’s false promise of a 12-month immigration amnesty to people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire will leave undocumented survivors unable to access the care and support they urgently need, Liberty has warned today.

Home Office staff guidance reveals survivors’ access to crucial support and services will be conditional on them registering with the Home Office and handing over their biometric data for future immigration control. 

After a brief 12-month reprieve, they will be exposed to the same treatment as other undocumented migrants: enforced destitution, no access to basic services and the threat of detention and removal – made all the more certain by the data the Home Office took from them as a condition of receiving services.

The policy also contains vague, potentially gaping loopholes that provide no certainty for any undocumented survivor.

Liberty has today provided Home Secretary Amber Rudd with its own annotated version of the guidance, which highlights that:

• The 12-month amnesty is at best a feeble attempt at compassion – leaving undocumented survivors’ with a huge question mark over their futures – and at worst a trap to pull people into the immigration system.

• Though survivors will be able to access healthcare during those 12 months, their personal information may be shared with immigration control under NHS-Home Office data-sharing deals.

• Survivors will be excluded from the 12-month amnesty based on lax and broad exemptions, which will force some to choose between services and deportation.

• The Government is exploiting the situation to gather survivors’ data for use in future immigration control. They will only be entitled to the 12-month amnesty if they hand over their biometrics.

• Grenfell survivors awaiting an asylum decision will not be entitled to 12 months’ leave. As asylum support has faced devastating cuts, this means they will be left living on as little as £5 a day – with no right to work – having lost everything they own.

• Anyone refused leave will have no right to appeal – leaving them no way to challenge notoriously poor and unreliable Home Office decision making.

• The policy includes ominous redactions of vital information, including around information gathering and data recording.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said:

“Theresa May promised the Government wouldn’t use this tragedy as a reason to carry out immigration checks. That’s exactly what they’re doing – and they’re dressing it up as an act of compassion.

“This policy lures undocumented Grenfell survivors in at their most vulnerable, gets their data on file, gives them a brief reprieve, then exposes them to the same inhumane policies the Home Office inflicts on other undocumented migrants – enforced destitution, denial of basic services and the constant threat of detention and removal.

“The only way to ensure undocumented survivors can access the help and support they so desperately need is to grant them a permanent amnesty. It is the least this Government can do.”

Liberty recommends anyone considering taking up the Home Office’s offer may wish to consult organisations helping undocumented survivors, including Doctors of the World, North Kensington Law Centre and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Contact: Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656, 07973 831 128 or pressoffice@liberty-human-rights.org.uk.