The criminalisation of the UK’s Highly Skilled Migrants (HSMs) and implications for wider migrant communities.
After 10+ years of building a life in the UK, the Home Office decided that many HSMs – all migrants of colour – were of ‘bad character’ for discrepancies found in self-assessment tax returns 6-10 years ago. Under immigration rule 322(5), it denied them indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK. Since 2016, these disproportionate decisions have had a disastrous impact on the HSMs and their families’ lives, pushing many, including children, into destitution and without basic rights.
At least 70 people and their families remain in legal limbo without leave to remain in the UK because of Home Office decisions that historic self-employment tax discrepancies 6-10 years ago make them ‘undesirable’. All HSMs are people of colour from 6 South Asian and African Commonwealth countries. Extensive research with the HSM community indicates that this is a unique application of immigration rule 322(5) which permits ILR refusals where someone’s ‘character’ is deemed ‘undesirable’, to a group of migrants of colour. For many HSMs, the Home Office’s subjective ‘bad character’ or ‘dishonesty’ assessments, has pushed over half into a state of destitution or homelessness which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nearly 1 in 5 of the remaining people without leave have not been given the chance to explain the discrepancies that were, for example, their accountants’ errors. With increasing legal fees for HSM cases, many HSMs are now unable to afford to pursue their cases.
Hundreds of HSMs have been granted ILR on the back of the Balajigari (2019) ruling, which found that the Home Office had acted unlawfully. The cases raised in this event however, including Balajigari himself, have fallen between the cracks. The future for these HSMs and many other migrants impacted by ‘good character references’ in the UK consequently remains uncertain.
This event will explore HSMs’ treatment within the context of discriminatory ‘hostile environment’ policies that have compounded the impacts of the different treatment and experiences of white and non-white migrants (Equality and Human Rights Commission, Nov. 2020). It will also explore the implications of the Home Office’s current policy around ‘good character references’ and related issues for HSMs and other migrants attempting to remain or settle in the UK going forward.
We hope that you can join us to discuss these important issues, their inter-relation to the treatment of other migrants of colour and the impact for post-Brexit immigration policy.
- The full report will be made available in conjunction with this event.
- For more immediate information on the key findings and recommendations about the issues facing HSMs, please follow this link or contact the report’s author Katharine at: [email protected] .
- A weblink to the Zoom meeting will be sent after registration.
Chair: Katharine Thane – Senior Advocacy Officer, Migrants’ Rights Network
Rt Hon. Stephen Timms MP – Chair, APPG Immigration Law and Policy
Lord Simon Woolley – Crossbench Peer and founder of Operation Black Vote
Sonali Naik QC – Garden Court Chambers
Salman Faruqui – Highly Skilled UK Secretariat
Members of the Highly Skilled Migrant group