Fingers crossed, skilled workers protest UK’s immigration crackdown

Vidya Ram London | Updated on June 05, 2018

A file photo of people protesting outside the UK Parliament against immigration rules that have left their residency status in limbo   -  PTI

Review by Home Secretary welcomed

On Tuesday, several hundred protesters — largely from South Asia, many from India — gathered outside the Houses of Parliament in London to continue to put the spotlight on the use of anti-terror legislation to stop them from settling in the UK because of changes they’d made to their tax submissions.

In this, the fourth protest held by the group since the start of the year, there was a level of optimism as other groups joined in — including a group representing Turkish businessmen and women — while several Members of Parliament dropped by to voice their support for the protesters.

“We have to look at the positive signs…,” Tamir Saleem, one of the founders of the campaign, told those gathered, pointing to the announcement of a review by new Home Secretary Sajid Javid. In late May Javid said that decisions on pending cases would be halted until an internal review on the appropriateness of the use of Paragraph 322 (5) of Britain’s Immigration Rules in these cases had been conducted.

Warning letter

The rule is meant to be used against terrorists and criminals, but with increasing frequency has been misused against highly skilled migrants who have made changes to their tax submissions, despite those changes being commonplace and made in line with the requirement of tax authorities, campaigners have argued.

Campaigners remain concerned that the Home Office has continued to issue letters demanding that individuals caught up in the controversial use of the rule in these cases leave Britain. Jnanesh, an e-commerce consultant originally from Maharashtra, had his application for indefinite leave to remain rejected twice, and had applied for an administrative review. The letter informing him that the review had upheld the use of Article 322 (5) was received by him this week, and dated 27 May. This was two days after Javid wrote to a Parliamentary committee saying decisions would be put on hold.

The letter warns him that he had to leave the UK “now” or be liable to be detained and removed, or prosecuted for overstaying with a penalty of up to six months in prison. Jnanesh, who lives in Birmingham, is hoping to push for a judicial review — one of his last remaining options, but has lost his right to work or access public services.

“This is incredibly disheartening,” says Jnanesh, who has had to leave his job and is set to close down the independent consultancy business he had set up. Since the announcement by Javid on May 25, others have raised questions about the extent to which his announcement on the halting of the application of the rules was being adhered to across the Home Office. “It seems the memo has yet to reach Home Office Presenting Officers in court today, who are maintaining and relying on decisions referring to 322(5),” wrote Rehana Popal, a human rights and immigration barrister, on Twitter last week.

Questions raised

“A review into HMRC-related tier-I route cases was commissioned immediately following the Immigration Minister's appearance at HASC earlier last month and is ongoing. We will await its findings before deciding whether any action needs to be taken on individual cases,” said the Home Office in a statement to this paper. “We are continuing to defend refusals in court where we consider that the decision was correct, and it has been checked under the terms of the review.”

The Home Office has indicated that the pause only applied to cases on which no decision had been taken (the decision on Jnanesh is thought to have been made in April). However, campaigners have expressed their disappointment that the Home Office shows little sign of giving up chasing such cases, arguing it went against the spirit of the indications made by Javid that he would revisit the “hostile environment” approach adopted by the Home Office in recent years.

Lack of clarity

“We are not getting enough clarity…it’s good the Home Secretary has announced he’s willing to review it but we need to see timescales…and a review of the impact its already had — it’s hugely affecting lives,” said Alison Thewliss, the Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow Central, who visited the protesters.

She has a number of constituents impacted by the rule use and is pushing for a debate on the use of 322 (5) in the House of Commons.

“It’s more in the spirit of the hostile environment,” said Nargis Awan, a solicitor representing some of those impacted. “They’ve been forced to have a review because of the media spotlight but that doesn’t mean that they have changed their perspective on creating a hostile environment.”

Aditi Bhardwaj, one of the founders of the Highly Skilled UK group also expressed her disappointment and concerns over the fact that the cases continued to be pursued. “We were expecting something would be done to help those who had already been refused while the review is pending,” she said. “I am really worried for people who have been refused (the right to remain) who don’t have work rights and are in a particularly vulnerable situation.”

“We would encourage everyone affected by this to go to their MP and let them know this is a discretionary clause being abused to remove people here legitimately,” said Thewliss. “There is a huge skills shortage in the NHS and other areas of the economy. These folks are the solution to this problem and preventing them from working and pushing them out of the country flies in the face of all logic.”

Published on June 05, 2018

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