While the Conservative government has become increasingly strict on immigration over recent years, it appears that the COVID-19 outbreak has softened its approach. The infamous “hostile environment” policy of Theresa May’s reign has been quietly sidelined, but there is a definite desire to reduce illegal migration into the UK. Due to the outbreak, there have been a number of rule changes that affect illegal migrants in the UK in 2020.
The British government has taken a pragmatic approach during the Coronavirus outbreak. While immigration removals are practically impossible (though some appear to have happened), other stringent checks have also been dropped. For instance, those who needed to check in at appointments are not currently required to do so. There have also been stories that have highlighted Britain’s immigration detention centres being practically emptied.
So, what does this all mean for illegal migrants in the UK or those looking to come? In this article, we will look at where things stand and also the changes, we are likely to see in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak for illegal migrants in the UK.
It had recently been posited that the prime minister, Boris Johnson, was about to offer an amnesty to all illegal migrants in the UK. While talk of an amnesty has gone cold, it would make sense for the UK to offer this. Once a sense of normality returns, it will be hard for the Home Office to regain control of the asylum system. A temporary amnesty may help to regain a sense of control over the system and also benefit those who are under the current regimen’s control.
There is a major issue with an asylum amnesty, it doesn’t exactly fit with Conservative ideology. The prevailing wisdom of Conservatism is that illegal migration is detrimental to a country. Whether this is true is subjective, there are no studies that prove this. There is also the issue that it would not sit well with Boris Johnson’s team, many of whom are attached to strict immigration controls.
An amnesty makes sense from a financial perspective, there’s a lot of money to be saved by not returning people back to their country of origin. There is also a waste of skills as many illegal migrants are exceptionally skilled, but their inability to work means there is no use of their talent.
It seems now that any amnesty for illegal migrants is unlikely. The home secretary, Priti Patel, has strengthened her position in recent times and has taken a hard line on illegal migration. Her rhetoric of ensuring people return to their country of origin is likely to be counterproductive, but it will please the hard right of the Conservative party.
While the UK’s immigration system is running in a somewhat diminished capacity, it is still running. Usually, you would need to attend the Home Office at its offices in Liverpool to make a fresh claim but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this is not currently required. You are still able to make a fresh claim. If you wish to do so, you will need to send documents to support your new claim. These will need to be sent via email and you will need to identify yourself within the email to ensure that it is considered correct. While you can still contact the department by telephone if necessary, it is preferable to contact them by email.
If you are in supported accommodation, this should continue whether your application is successful or not. The system is currently on hold and extensions have been put in place. While this process should be managed automatically, you may still receive a “Notice to Quit”. If you do receive a notice, you should contact Migrant Help as soon as possible to ensure that you remain within the rules. You should also continue to receive financial support. If you are struggling to get assistance, please get in touch and our team can help to ensure that you remain protected.
Related Article: ‘How to claim asylum in the UK’
‘Changes to Asylum and Immigration Process (Temporary) – COVID-19’
The COVID-19 outbreak has changed daily life for everyone. As you may expect, it has also significantly changed the UK’s immigration system. The rules above are short-term measures and will not remain in place forever. So, what can we expect? There are already talks about the resumption of face to face interviews. We also believe that those who need to check-in with their local Home Office point either have already been or are about to be, asked to resume their regular check-ins. We are slowly seeing the system start to pick up steam and it is only a matter of time before detentions and removals begin again.
Also, as you may have seen, there has been a significant rise in attempted crossings of the English Channel. This has brought the issue of illegal migration back into the spotlight. If the home secretary, Priti Patel is right, these illegal migrants will be returned to their country of origin. If her rhetoric is government policy, we can expect that things will get worse before they get better for illegal migrants in the UK. With the resumption of service as usual, it's incredibly sad that the British government has missed a chance to help illegal migrants in the UK. Whether they do so in the future remains to be seen, but it seems sadly unlikely.
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