Katharine is our Senior Advocacy Officer and is currently working on our project to support Highly Skilled Migrants. Katharine has worked in human rights, including on people discriminated against or violently targeted because of their religion or belief, for over 8 years at the UK, EU and UN level.
Prior to MRN, she was Senior Researcher and Policy Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Between 2014 – 2019 she was the Operations Director of the UK Parliament All-party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief where she worked to change Home Office policy on the UK’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. In addition to analysing the vulnerability assessments of refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere with UNHCR, she developed compulsory training for Home Office caseworkers when interviewing those seeking asylum in the UK. Prior to UK Parliament, Katharine has worked in several human rights and humanitarian organisations, including with the University of Essex’s Human Rights Clinic and Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, and in London, Durham and Nyeri, Kenya. She holds a Masters (with distinction) in Human Rights and Cultural Diversity from the University of Essex and a BA in Philosophy and Theology from Durham University.
Highly Skilled Migrants
In March 2019, MRN successfully intervened on behalf of a number of migrants and their families in the Balajigari case after the Tier 1 General visa scheme for Highly Skilled Migrants (HSMs) closed in April 2015. While the Balajigari, and subsequent January 2020 Tahir Yaseen case rulings have helped many HSMs to be granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR), Katharine and MRN are working with over 65 people whose ILR decisions continue to be delayed or denied. We are deeply concerned about the criminalisation of HSMs using uniquely-applied subjective ‘good character’ decisions that have not been applied consistently or, in some cases, with clear evidence.
The Home Office’s decisions have left many individuals and their families destitute and struggling to survive, especially during Covid-19. Without the ability to work, rent or have recourse to public funding for at least 55 percent and job insecurity for the rest, many HSMs have also accrued substantial debt through soaring legal fees for these kinds of cases (322(5)) and are trapped: unable to leave the country and unable to legally pursue their cases.
MRN published an interim report in early December ahead of the publication of the full report in the coming weeks (more information coming soon!).
The work to raise the profile of these cases and highlight the disproportionate discrimination continues. Understanding their plight and helping to fight the injustices towards this particular group has much wider implications not only for our future work but also for migrant communities across the UK.
Read on to find out more details about the interim report findings and the continuation of this project for 2021