Dinesh is a Sri Lankan national who came to the UK in 1964 and has since worked and lived here, he also has children and grandchildren in the UK. It is likely that Dinesh had indefinite leave to enter when he can to join his father, but in any case, he would have indefinite leave to remain as he was present in the UK as at 1.1.1973, when a new Immigration Act came in, which regularised people’s stay in the UK. Dinesh came to HMC because his employers asked him for proof of his immigration status and he was not able to produce this in time so he found himself being fired from his job at Hammersmith and Fulham council. He was very distressed and frustrated. He had received a letter from CAPITA informing him that he had to provide evidence of booking a flight back home. His benefits were going to be stopped and he was getting into rent arrears and was threatened with eviction. During the drop-in one of our advisers from ILC informed him that he almost certainly has ILR and informed him of what application he would need to make, along with the relevant evidence he would need to gather to prove he has been in the UK for 50 years.
We stayed in touch with Dinesh and he started to deteriorate, he was struggling with the effect his situation was having on his mental health and then he was diagnosed with lung cancer. An immigration adviser from Islington Law Centre agreed to take on his case as part of our pro bono immigration project.
We have just found out that he has now been awarded indefinite leave to remain and so can access benefits and prevent his eviction and hopefully concentrate on looking after himself.
There are many other people who have been caught out by the legal aid cuts who are in a similar situation, see a recent Guardian article covering this issue here
Samuel is a young Jamaican, who first came to HMC for immigration advice in May 2012. He had arrived in the UK in 2008 with a study visa for university which was about to expire. When he came to HMC Samuel was gravely concerned about his imminent return, as in Jamaica he had received threats because of his homosexuality, and he feared further persecution because of widespread homophobia there. Our immigration adviser helped Samuel to submit an asylum application and made written representations on his behalf. Eventually the Home Office recognised the risks associated with Samuel returning to Jamaica, and in September 2012 he was recognised as a refugee.
Recently Samuel returned to HMC for assistance with a pressing housing problem. After living in a student hall of residence, he had moved to private shared accommodation, and was renting the living room in an overcrowded flat. He no longer received financial support from his family, and was claiming job seekers allowance, to which he is entitled as a recognised refugee. However, as is often the case, his landlord was reluctant to accept a tenant who was receiving benefits, and had given him a week’s notice to vacate the property.
Samuel’s only viable option seemed to be a place in supported accommodation through the YMCA. Even this seemed challenging as, in order to register, he needed a letter of recommendation from his local council. Despite Samuel’s best efforts his caseworker at the council didn’t provide this and he was at serious risk of homelessness. HMC assisted him with his application to the YMCA and wrote him a reference to get him a place in a hostel.
An HMC volunteer met Samuel by chance recently at a book launch. He had finished his studies a couple of months earlier and found work as a social care advocate. He has moved in with a friend and is involved with LGBTI groups.
Abeke is a 21 year old young woman from Nigeria. In May 2013 the Citizens Advice Bureau referred her to HMC for both immigration and housing advice. Her visa had expired and she was homeless and destitute. We discovered that Abeke also needed health advice and help with GP registration as she was six months pregnant. Abeke’s irregular immigration status meant that her housing and financial situations were difficult to address because she had ‘no recourse to public funds’ and therefore could not seek benefits, housing or work; she was in a very desperate situation. The reasons why she was in this situation were very complicated.
Abeke first came to the UK for a month as an unaccompanied minor aged 13 as her stepfather didn’t want her to stay with the family in Nigeria. On this visit she stayed with a Nigerian family not related to her. After her one month visa expired in 2005 she returned to Nigeria and obtained a multiple entry two year visa. In June 2006 she returned to the UK and lived with the same family until 2008 when they had to leave London. During these three years Abeke never attended school.
After her original host family left London, Abeke went to live with Jennette, a woman of Nigerian origin, and her two children. Jennette arranged for her to go to school and supported her as much as possible. After school Abeke decided to go to college where she completed a BTEC Level 3 in IT and Business. During her studies she developed a relationship with a young man she met at college. When she became pregnant he abandoned Abeke and never contacted her again. On top of this, Jennette told her that she was unable to support her with a baby and asked Abeke to leave.
During her first visit to HMC our health adviser helped Abeke to register with a GP, and our volunteers made several successful grant applications on her behalf. Unfortunately we were not able to find her a shelter for the night but the vicar of St. Mary’s church agreed to house her temporarily.
Abeke came back the following week and after lengthy discussion with her, an immigration solicitor from Islington Law Centre took on her case as an Article 8 Human Rights application . As there is now no longer legal aid for this type of immigration case, we accepted Abeke on the project we have developed with Islington Law Centre to help destitute people who need immigration representation and cannot pay a private solicitor.
After her Article 8 application was lodged Abeke should have been able to get housing and financial support from social services, while the Home Office was considering her claim. Our generalist adviser helped her apply for housing and financial support but which borough had responsibility for her was disputed, as she had been living in Newham when she became homeless but was now in Hackney, and neither borough would accept responsibility for her. HMC helped to refer her to a community solicitor who issued a judicial review against Hackney Social Services which finally accepted responsibility and has housed her in temporary accommodation.
At the end of August 2013 Abeke gave birth to a healthy little boy. She is still living in temporary accommodation with financial support from Hackney Social Services. Abeke still comes regularly to HMC to meet people and get help when needed. Recently we managed to find her a pushchair for her baby. We are hopeful that she will receive a decision from the Home Office granting her the right to remain, which will enable her to build a new life for herself and her son.
Ali is a 37-year-old doctor from Sudan, who left his country because he was suffering persecution for his antigovernment political activities. He first came to the UK in 2004 to claim asylum, but because of his light skin colour the Home Office did not believe that Sudan was his country of origin, and refused his asylum claim and subsequent appeal. In 2006 he returned to Sudan where he was arrested at the airport in Khartoum, and was placed in detention. After his release he continued to be persecuted for his political activities. Eventually he decided to return to the UK in May 2012 and claim asylum again.
Ali first came to HMC to seek advice in August 2012. At this point he was homeless, with no support or access to healthcare, and was visibly exhausted. We advised him about his asylum claim, and our volunteers referred him to the British Red Cross for further help with his claim and to apply for asylum support. Meanwhile, volunteers helped him to find a place in a shelter for homeless people and to obtain healthcare. Ali continued to come regularly to HMC sessions.
Ali was clearly suffering from mental health problems and other serious illnesses following his ill-treatment in Sudan. We were very concerned about him, so referred him to Freedom from Torture, which offers therapy and support to victims of torture. His asylum case was very complicated because Ali had claimed asylum before and Home Office guidance was not clear as to whether he must start a completely new asylum claim or make a fresh claim. He was bounced back and forth between various Home Office departments in different cities, adding to his distress.
It was only in October 2012, after his solicitors threatened to challenge the Home Office with a judicial review, that Ali was able to lodge a new asylum claim. He was then granted asylum support. By this time he had unnecessarily suffered five months homelessness and destitution, which exacerbated his mental stress and depression. In line with the Home Office policy on ‘dispersing’ asylum seekers outside of London, at the end of 2012 he was sent to Birmingham. Ali still has regular contact with HMC via email. We are also trying to connect him to supportive services in Birmingham as he is still feeling very distressed. Happily, after more than a year in limbo he was recently granted refugee status.