Home Office ‘perpetuates illegality’ as citizens of 64 nations get caught in Windrush scandal

Immigration and asylum expert Sheona York says the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ means we should not be surprised that cases involving citizens from 64 countries have been referred to the Windrush taskforce.

Sheona York, who is a solicitor attached to the University’s Kent Law Clinic which provides help and advice on a pro-bono basis, says the way the Home Office operates ‘perpetuates illegality’.

She said: ‘We should not be shocked or surprised by the Home Office revelation that people from 64 nationalities have been referred to the Windrush taskforce.

The Home Office policies and practices which have led to the ‘Windrush debacle’ are long-standing and apply to all areas of immigration law. These are:
• an increased reliance on applicants producing specific documents to show entitlement, with little discretion at the Home Office and no discretion at all for employers, landlords, NHS trusts, universities etc to accept an applicant’s story even without some of the required documents (- i.e. illegal unless proved legal – the true ‘hostile environment’, not new, but dating from the 80’s Thatcher governments)
big increases in application fees and increasingly complex requirements and application forms making it hard for people already here lawfully to make valid applications of any sort
Home Office poor administration and poor decision-making, over decades, as evidenced in Home Affairs Committee reports, independent inspections and Government admissions (2006 ‘not fit for purpose’, 2013 ‘not good enough’] leading to significant numbers of mistakes, forcing applicants to make lengthy and expensive legal challenges to establish their rights

‘All these aspects of immigration control tend to create illegality – as people lawfully present find it harder to prove their status, and more expensive and difficult to retain their lawful status – and often fail to do so, falling into the ‘hostile environment’.

Home Office policies also perpetuate illegality, as those who are here unlawfully, or who have become unlawfully present because they can’t afford the renewal fees, find it harder to make applications provided for in the Rules.’

As well as handling Clinic case work relating to immigration and asylum cases, Sheona York carries out research and policy work around the subject. She is the author of the study The ‘hostile environment’: How Home Office immigration policies and practices create and perpetuate illegality, due to be published in the Journal of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law in December.