No Grenfell survivor should be deported
05 Jul 2017Can you imagine running terrified from a fire on the scale of the one that engulfed the Grenfell Tower three weeks ago? You have lost your home and all your possessions and documents. You may also have lost close friends or even family members. It is simply not acceptable that you may then face the threat of deportation, a final insult added to grievous injury. But this is exactly what might happen to some of the survivors of the Grenfell tragedy.
The Home Office has conceded to pressure to make some concessions on immigration status. But the government is offering only a partial amnesty, limited to 12 months. For anyone concerned about their immigration status, this will act a major deterrent.
As well as moral issues at stake. We know that, particularly in London, some people arrive in this country who are undocumented, or whose immigration status has not been regularised. But when tragedy strikes, there is a real risk that people who are desperately in need simply disappear off the grid, receiving no help or support whatsoever.
One of the victims of the 1987 King’s Cross fire was only identified 16 years after his terrible death. We will probably never know if any of the Grenfell survivors simply disappeared after their initial treatment, fearing their immigration status would be used against them.
So, simply in order to reach all the people who need rehousing and support to rebuild their lives, it is necessary to offer a full immigration amnesty. This move should be seen as comparable to the assurance, already been given to survivors, that no one will be penalised because they are in breach of local authority rules against subletting the flats. In both cases, it is a basic humanitarian measure o ensure survivors are not deterred from seeking the support that should be theirs as a right.
The mechanism for this is straightforward. Any survivor who requires it could be immediately granted indefinite leave to remain. The other aspects of their lives can then also begin to be addressed.
There are wider questions too, which go even beyond a housing policy that seems to have been designed to treat those in local authority or social housing as second-class citizens. Notions have become entrenched that “light-touch” regulation is preferable, that deregulation is always required, and that the private sector is always superior to public provision – and that where the private sector cannot run things, it should milk the public sector via outsourcing.
These have led to disaster. Grenfell is a manmade disaster. As such, it was avoidable, and the survivors and wider society will want to see justice done, the correct lessons learned and acted on, and the culture that led to it overthrown. One of the minimum initial steps is a full immigration amnesty for any survivor who requires it.