Out now: a new leaflet from the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) on recent increases to the fees for those seeking refuge in this country. Along with other groups and faith bodies QARN seeks to inspire others to express outrage at this injustice.
It is not widely known that extortionate fees for renewal of their stay are hitting large numbers of former asylum seekers and their children every two-and-a-half years for a period of ten years until they are allowed permanent residence. These flat-rate per capita charges are additional to equally high fees required to purchase their potential right of citizenship after more than ten years. They are also additional to tax and national insurance and they fall on every member of the family, including those newly-born during the ten-year period. The fees must be delivered upfront in a single online payment.
The victims of this system include the high percentage of asylum seekers who are not granted full refugee or humanitarian status, but so-called “discretionary leave”. This is a misleading term, as, in fact, the grants of permission to stay are made on the grounds of protecting a right to family and private life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, so, actually, no discretionary decision is involved.
Introduced five years ago at a per capita rate of £1133, the figure currently stands at £2,033, plus £26 for a biometric resident permit and (usually) £100 for a biometric enrolment appointment.
The Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network has produced a leaflet with detailed information about this oppressive system and is working with other groups and faith bodies to try to raise awareness and, ultimately, change the government’s mind. The fact however that the government is appealing against the Supreme Court ruling from December 2019 that it is unlawful to make a profit at the expense of children, shows what an uphill struggle this is going to be.
QARN is calling on all to download the text of the leaflet at http://www.qarn.org.uk/qarn-leaflets and to encourage meetings, faith groups and individuals to take up this concern by writing to MPs and spreading awareness in your networks
‘Our historic testimonies to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenge us to alleviate suffering and seek positive social change.’
Quaker Faith and Practice 8.11
QARN is joining with others to campaign for the lowering of the exorbitant Home Office fees currently required of people who have been accepted as qualifying for Discretionary Leave to Remain following an application for asylum. These excessive fees, paid by people in already vulnerable situations, also help fund the wider immigration system.
Why are Quakers concerned?
The Home Office has granted many people who have sought asylum here Discretionary Leave to Remain [DLR] for 30 months instead of Refugee Leave, where they accept there are compelling reasons to allow them to remain here. These people then have to make repeated applications for Further Leave to Remain until ten years have passed in order to stay legally in the UK. They must then apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR], and one year later they can apply for British Citizenship – a series of five applications any of which could be refused, all incurring exorbitant fees compared to the actual cost of processing the application.
QARN believes that the extreme financial pressure applied to people who have very limited choices and who have originally applied for asylum is another symptom of the racist and hostile environment created in the UK; that it is immoral, and that this must stop.
People have no choice about entering this process as their legal existence here depends on being granted Further Leave to Remain, and they have no other safe option. Many therefore also pay a solicitor, for which there is no legal aid, and have little option other than to take out loans to finance this process.
In addition to the psychologically damaging cost of being subjected to at least 12 years of instability, the experience of having to find the huge sums of money to pay these fees is a heavy and unacceptable toll on already vulnerable people.
Facts and figures
These applications for Further Leave to Remain used to be free. In 2015 the Home Office introduced a fee. At that time they made a commitment to self-fund the wider immigration system. These fees have risen steeply and now far exceed the costs incurred for each application.
The published Home Office figures demonstrate, for example, that in 2020, administration costs in relation to an application for Further Leave to Remain [FLR] would be £142 but the fee for the application is £1,033;
Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR] costs the Home Office £243 but the application fee is £2,389; child applications for British Citizenship cost the Home Office £375 but the fee is £1,012, and £1,126 for an adult.
There is an additional Health surcharge of £400 per year per application, increasing to £624 per year from October 2020 for all surcharge-liable non-EEA migrants and £470 for their dependents, expanding to include
EEA migrants from January 2021. (These increases of 64% and 17.5% were announced in the budget on 11th March 2020).
The rules in 2020 require that further applications for Leave to Remain must be made after 2.5 years, 5 years and 7.5 years until 10 years has been completed in this system. Including the health surcharge, these
applications currently cost each applicant £2,059 each time and will increase to £2,619 from October 2020. Campaigners in the sector have warned that this will price people out of citizenship and regularising their status, leading to an increase in the undocumented population. After 10 years people must pay for Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR], and a year later they can apply to become a British Citizen. If a mistake is made in the application then the fee is not necessarily returned.
There is no legal aid for renewals, and whilst an application can be made for the fee to be waived if theapplicant demonstrates that they will otherwise become destitute, solicitors face the dilemma that they
cannot apply for a fee waiver without charging an extra fee themselves. And there is no guarantee of success.
What needs to change?
People in this vulnerable situation should not be financially subsidising the system. If a fee must be charged it should reflect only the costs of processing the application. This could be recovered once the applicant has
Indefinite Leave to Remain and is earning a decent wage.
The system of requiring people to make these repeated applications over a ten year period is relatively recent and causes unnecessary emotional suffering. The system needs to be simplified, and the process to reach
Indefinite Leave to Remain should take 5 years, in line with Refugee Leave.
What can we do?
Write to your MP about the injustice of charging such high fees. Highlight the failure of the government to implement the Supreme Court ruling in December 2019 that profit at the expense of children is unlawful.
Organise an information/awareness-raising event to focus on the scale of the money involved, and the fact that the Home Office makes £millions on immigration cases, profiting from those in vulnerable circumstances who have no alternative.
Work with other organisations to help those in your community who are struggling.
Link with other organisations challenging this system, for example Migrant Voice, Joint Public Issues Team, Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, Coram.
Our website will signpost you to others working in this field here:
Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN)
c/o Leicester Quaker Meeting House, 16 Queens Rd, Leicester LE2 1WP
Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network
qarn.org.uk April 2020
You will find a list of fees and actual cost on the gov.uk website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visa-fees-transparency-data
QARN leaflet now available. We thank George Sfougaras for the use of his artwork
April 2020: you can download a copy of the leaflet, and others – please feel free to print and distribute these: http://www.qarn.org.uk/qarn-leaflets
You will find further information here: http://www.qarn.org.uk/vulnerable-people-paying-for-immigration-system/