PRESS RELEASE - 7 MARCH 2018
Lawful, long-term young migrants warn: 'We are being put at risk of "illegality" by escalating government fees.'
Campaign group Let us Learn is calling for a freeze on spiralling Home Office fees, which are due to rise again this April.
Cost of maintaining 'lawfully resident' status has increased by 148%, between 2014 and 2017.
Young migrants have already been hit by the announcement in February that the compulsory 'NHS surcharge' they also have to pay is set to double later this year.
Let us Learn - a group of ambitious 16-24 year olds who have grown up in the UK - are today (7 March 2018) launching a campaign asking Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP: 'Please freeze our fees!' We are also calling for a government review of the impact of spiralling fees on lawful young migrants like us.
To launch the campaign, Let us Learn is today inviting politicians and policymakers to attend a discussion with our members, called 'No limitation on aspiration!' The event is hosted by David Lammy MP, in the Jubilee Room, at the Houses of Parliament, from 3-4.30pm. (To attend, please contact us on the email address, below.) We will be explaining why our campaign is important and how you can support it.
Between 2014 and 2017, the fees we have to pay every 30 months to keep our lawful immigration status have increased from £601 to £1,493. Further fee increases which will add an extra £500 to the cost were announced last month (February), and other rises are expected in April - unless the Home Office agrees to our request for a freeze.
Let us Learn's Freeze on Fees campaign has already won support from David Lammy MP, and the deputy London mayor for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, Matthew Ryder QC (see below).
Dami Makinde, 24, project worker with Let us Learn, says:
'Let us Learn are a group of hardworking and ambitious young migrants who are proud to call this country home. We include aspiring lawyers, doctors, scientists - and even one who wants to be an astronaut. We want to fully contribute to our communities and to British society as a whole. All of our ambitions and plans are being put at risk because we cannot afford the spiralling cost of the fees we are charged to maintain our lawful immigration status. Whenever we together, the main topic of conversation is how stressed and pressured everyone feels because the fees we have to pay are so high.'
Chrisann Jarrett, 23, project worker with Let us Learn, adds:
'I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to study law at LSE and graduated last year. I plan to become a lawyer and bring about social change. However, everything - not just my career ambitions - but my wellbeing and place in society, is being put at risk because I cannot save enough to meet the regular Home Office and other fees I have to pay. If I lose my lawful status, I would immediately become subject to the government's "hostile environment" aimed at punishing illegal migrants. One of the worst things is that these steep rises are introduced with no warning, so it is impossible for any of us to budget.'
Why Let us Learn are calling for a freeze on fees
Most of our members have been granted by the Home Office a form of immigration status known as 'limited leave to remain' (LLR). We have to reapply for LLR every 30 months, which involves completing a 60-page application form and paying a fee to the Home Office, plus the compulsory 'NHS surcharge'. It is only after 10 years, and four LLR applications, that we are eligible to apply for 'indefinite leave to remain', and then citizenship (both of which also involve paying substantial fees).
Speaking in support of the campaign, David Lammy MP, the host of today's event, says:
'Rising Home Office fees are jeopardising the futures of inspiring young people, who have grown up in Britain. I applaud the much needed work of Let Us Learn in challenging these unfair charges. It is vital that we support initiatives such as this, particularly against the backdrop of rising hostility to migrants in the UK.'
Matthew Ryder QC, deputy London mayor for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, says:
'This is an issue which affects many young Londoners and which the mayor takes very seriously. Every single Londoner should feel part of this city but Home Office application fees have risen to unaffordable levels. Alongside other administrative obstacles and delays, these fees put an unnecessary barrier in the way of young Londoners who have so much to contribute to the capital. This needs to change. Where it is recognised that a young person has the right to stay in the UK, the government should reduce their financial costs and shorten their route to citizenship. We pride ourselves on being the most diverse, welcoming, open city in the world, and we risk losing this strength if we hold back young, talented Londoners who have grown up and belong here."
Let us Learn's campaign is also supported by children's charity Coram.
Dr Carol Homden CBE, chief executive of Coram, says: 'A freeze in fees would be an important first step towards ensuring that these young people - who are British in all but their paperwork - can secure permanent status.'
Let us Learn is concerned that at the same time as it has been increasing application fees to unaffordable levels, the government has also been creating an increasingly 'hostile environment' for anyone without lawful status. Penalties if our immigration status lapses include being unable to work, or obtain a driving licence, open a bank account or rent a flat. Although we have lived in the UK most of our lives, we would also be at risk of being removed from the country which is our home.
How costs of maintaining lawful immigration status have risen:
Home Office 'limited leave to remain' (LLR) application fee: £601.
Amount payable = £601
Home Office LLR application fee: £649; introduction of £500 NHS surcharge.
Year on year increase, 91%
Amount payable = £1,149
Home Office LLR application fee: £811; NHS surcharge: £500.
Year on year increase, 14%
Amount payable = £1,311
Home Office LLR application fee: £993; NHS surcharge: £500.
Year on year increase,13.8%
Amount payable = £1,493
Home Office LLR application fee: £993++ (increase due in April 2018); NHS surcharge: £1,000 (100% increase announced February 2018)
Year on year increase, at least 33%
Amount payable = at least £1,993
For more information, or to arrange an interview with a Let us Learn member or attend our 'No limitation on aspiration!' event on 7 March, contact Fiona Bawdon, Just for Kids Law communications director: 07740 644474; firstname.lastname@example.org; or Chrisann Jarrett, Let us Learn project worker: ChrisannJarrett@justforkidslaw.org
Notes for editors
1) Let us Learn is a youth-led campaign, set up under the auspices of the award winning charity Just for Kids Law in 2014. Let us Learn campaigns for equal access to education for students from migrant backgrounds and aims to inspire young people to take a lead in their schools and communities. www.letuslearn.study; www.justforkidslaw.org
2) Dami Makinde was born in Nigeria and came to the UK age 8. She lives in East London with her parents and younger brother. She has been a member of Let us Learn since February 2015 and became its first project worker in November that year. Her ambition is to continue fighting injustice and raise up other young leaders. She is active in her local church and always helps people wherever she can.
3) Chrisann Jarrett was born in Jamaican and came to the UK at age 8. She lives in Hackney with her mum and younger brother. She founded Let Us Learn and has since graduated from LSE with a law degree. She now works full time at Let Us Learn and thinks it is vital for young people to have a platform and influence over decisions that affect them.
4) Legal aid is not available for immigration-related issues, and lawyers will typically charge around £1,000 to deal with limited leave to remain applications. As a result, many young people have no choice but to complete the 60-page application form with no expert help.
5) Most members of Let us Learn have a form of immigration status known as 'limited leave to remain' (LLR), which has to be regularly renewed to a strict timetable over a 10-year period, before our status is made permanent. Each LLR application involves completion of a 60-page form, and paying Home Office fees, plus the NHS surcharge. Any delay in making an application means starting the 10-year process again from the beginning. It is only after making four consecutive successful LLR applications at 30-month intervals, that we are are entitled to apply for 'indefinite leave to remain' (which in 2017 cost £2,297). After holding ILR for a year, we are eligible to apply for naturalisation, which currently costs £1,282.
6) The government announced in February 2018 it plans to double the NHS surcharge later this year, which will add an extra £500 to the cost of each LLR application: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/health-charge-for-temporary-migrants-will-increase-to-400-a-year