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Fears of new Windrush as thousands of UK migrants face cliff-edge visa changes | Immigration and Asylum

Fears of new Windrush as thousands of UK migrants face cliff-edge visa changes |  Immigration and Asylum

 


Lawyers and immigrant rights campaigners have warned of a repeat of the Windrush scandal after the government set a deadline for immigrants to switch to new digital visas.

By the end of this year, the estimated 500,000 more non-EU immigrants allowed to remain in the UK will have to replace their physical biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which proves their right to live, rent, work and claim benefits. Digital electronic visa.

To access your e-Visa, you will need to open a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) digital account. The Home Office recently sent out an email to a pilot group of BRP holders inviting them to open a digital account, but many migrants found their lawyer's email address as their Home Office contact, so they turned to their lawyer rather than themselves.

Additionally, personal information was excluded from the invitation for data security reasons, so lawyers had no way of knowing which of their potentially thousands of clients the email would be addressed to. That means the email couldn't be forwarded.

Zoe Bantleman, legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, said that after December 31, anyone who does not have access to an electronic visa will be unable to prove their status in the UK. The Home Office placed them in a similar position to the Windrush generation. You have status, but you cannot prove it.

Given the poor state of the Home Office's communications on this issue, it is reasonable to assume that thousands of people will not apply for an electronic visa before the end of 2024.

From this summer, all BRP holders will be able to open a UKVI digital account without an invitation. But immigration lawyers worry that the government's planned outreach will miss out on many elderly or poor people who do not speak English as their first language or do not have ready access to the Internet.

Zoe Dexter, housing and welfare manager at human rights charity Helen Bamber Foundation, described the government's plans as confusing. She said: The Home Office's move to digitize identity proof will have huge financial consequences for hundreds of thousands of people, including refugees and survivors of trafficking and torture. Their identity is tied to the benefits they receive.

Critics warn the Home Office has failed to put in place measures to deal with the possibility of technical failures, creating a cliffhanger ahead of the deadline. People can still apply for a UKVI digital account after December 31, but if they are unaware of the new rules they may only discover this when they are unable to prove their right to return from holiday or claim benefits, causing confusion.

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Bethan Lant, of immigration rights charity Praxis, said this was a recipe for disaster. People will not be able to prove their status through no fault of their own. Because the Home Office has not communicated well and has given them the edge, after which even basic things will be difficult to access. We're not saying don't go digital, we're not saying you shouldn't do these things. This means being more engaged, doing it carefully, gently, and over a period of time.

A Home Office spokesperson said: Electronic visas provide secure confirmation of someone's UK immigration status, increase security and bring about cost savings for the British public. It also uses proven technology to provide greater convenience to customers and status checkers. The phased rollout in April is a significant step towards replacing physical documents with electronic visas by 2025, a key part of the transformation and digitization of the UK's border and immigration system.

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2/ https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/article/2024/may/18/digital-visa-switch-uk-immigrants-december-deadline

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