The Home Office announced changes to the dedicated immigration policy for survivors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The new policy will provide undocumented migrants with a route toward permanent residence. The goal of the policy is to encourage Grenfell inhabitants whose immigration status is insecure to come forward and claim their due support, as well as provide evidence about what happened during the fire that claimed nearly 80 lives.
The Home Office initially offered undocumented migrants living at Grenfell a 12-month amnesty. This policy faced heavy criticism from MRN and allied groups and campaigns, not least because it left migrants in a state of uncertainty about their future. As a spokesperson for the North Kensington Law Centre acknowledged to the Guardian:
“Campaigning groups have repeatedly pushed ministers to go much further and formulate policies that properly address the needs of the community in north Kensington. Until now, the Home Office’s approach seriously risked silencing the voices of undocumented survivors in the Grenfell inquiry and was clearly failing to encourage undocumented individuals to access support.”
The amended immigration policy regarding undocumented Grenfell survivors will allow their leave to remain to be renewed, and eventually lead to permanent residence after five years, subject to passing security and criminality checks. The policy also allows relatives of survivors or victims of the tragedy to stay in the UK for up to six months.
Accessing this immigration programme requires Grenfell survivors to reach out to the Home Office in person before 30 November.
While a marked improvement from the previous Grenfell immigration policy, the current provisions still require candidates to provide biometric data, while some question the soundness of a November deadline. As Jo Renshaw, a lawyer specialising in immigration, explained to the Guardian,
“Given that many of those who may fall within this policy are, understandably, not only traumatised by the fire itself, but also likely to be very worried about coming forward in person – or may not yet have heard about this policy – having such a rigid method and timeframe for applying for leave is perhaps inappropriate.”
Liberty, meanwhile, have criticised the new policy for remaining far too vague about the guarantees offered to insecure migrants under the new amnesty scheme.