January 2021 Newsletter

Welcome to our monthly update on news & campaigns happening across the country: Highly Skilled Migrants: Fighting To Be Seen; Projects & Campaigns, Job Vacancies , Events

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Highly Skilled Migrants: Fighting To Remain in the UK & Destitute

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


Projects & Campaigns

  • Interim Report: Highly Skilled Migrant Indefinite Leave To Remain Refusals & Covid-19 Realities - MRN has been working with the remaining 65 + Highly Skilled Migrants (HSMs) and their families who remain in legal limbo with no indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK. The interim report’s Executive Summary outlines some of the most concerning findings about the Home Office policy and decision-making and their impact on people who were welcomed to Britain in the belief that they would be able to build a permanent life in the UK.
         Our key findings for the remaining cases:
  • HSMs have been criminalised through the Home Office’s discretionary and subjective ‘bad character’ or ‘dishonesty’ judgements using immigration rule 322(5) in relation to historic self-employment tax discrepancies; some over 10 years ago. The Home Office has not justified why tax discrepancies fall under clause 322(5) and cause HSMs to fail ‘good character requirements’, making it ‘undesirable’ for them to remain in the UK; a disproportionate and double-standard applied to people born in the UK vs. those not.
  • All remaining HSMs without ILR are people of colour, originating from 6 South Asian and African countries. All of these countries are in the Commonwealth. All the HSMs have also been in the UK for more than 10 years and over 75% have children under the age of 10. Over 90% studied in the UK and hold a post-graduate degree, including MBAs.
  • 87% of the remaining HSMs enlisted help from an accountant for the tax returns with ‘discrepancies’, 83% of which were their first ever tax returns in the UK.
  • Inconsistencies between case decisions indicate that for many of the remaining cases, the Home Office did not undertake a sufficient “balancing exercise” in making its decision, that was “informed by all relevant factors”, including criminal and immigration record, dependents in school, “substantial positive contribution to the UK … and circumstances relating to the (mis)conduct in question” [Balajigari ruling 2019].
  • 80% of remaining HSMs have not received a ‘minded to refuse’ (MTR) letter which gives the chance to answer questions about the circumstances of the discrepancy and 38% have neither received an MTR nor been given a right of appeal allowing them to ‘tell their story’, as per the Government’s procedural justice guidelines. In all but the most extreme cases, the Yaseen judgement found that a balancing exercise must be done. Balajigari found that if an HSM applicant is found not to be guilty of conduct within clause 322(5), “then a serious injustice will have been done”.
  • For those with no leave, the combination of significant unexplained delays in Home Office and court decisions (87%), having no section 3C rights to work, rent, drive, healthcare, public funding etc. (for 45%), and exposure to the hostile environment without any sense of security has pushed them into a state of near or actual destitution or hopelessness.
  • Covid-19 has exacerbated already difficult circumstances for the HSMs and their families, causing further delays or reducing the financial ability to pursue cases. 45-48% say they are already homeless, destitute or unable to pay rent and have food insecurity. All say they or their partners have experienced significant declines in mental health. Many HSMs also report serious health conditions for them or their family members, some of which are disabilities, and some of which correlate with ILR uncertainty.
Key recommendations include:
  • Ending the use of section 322(5) to criminalise Highly Skilled Migrants (HSMs)
  • Granting Section 3C rights to work, rent and access public funding etc.
  • Provide emergency covid-19 support for HSMs in limbo.
  • Granting full ILR instead of limited leave to remain
  • Immediately re-considering the cases where the Home Office has not acted consistently or sufficiently. 
We will be hosting a report launch in the coming weeks about our findings and recommendations. To be kept-up-to-date and read the interim report and our recommendations now please click here.

Job Vacancies

  • Medical Justice - Policy, Research & Parliamentary Manager - Initially working from home all the time, later working much of the time at our office in Finsbury Park. Salary: £33,000-36,000 pro-rata depending on experience. Hours: Full-time but would consider part-time policy job. Deadline: Extended to 29th Jan 2021. For more information and to apply click here
  • Medical Justice - Trustee - New Chair of the Board wanted. Hours: Board meets from 6-8pm every 3 months and involvement in between. Deadline: 12th Feb 2021. For further information, or to arrange an informal conversation with the Director and/or Acting Chair, please contact / 07786 517379


  • BID -  Risky Business: detention decision-making and vulnerability during the pandemic - Join us to hear from our speakers about how people continued to be detained despite not being removable, the impact of being detained during a global pandemic, and the Home Office’s careless and error-strewn approach to detention decision-making which failed to take into account the enormity of the changes brought about by the pandemic. To register for event click here
  • JCWI - The Truth About Modern Slavery - Join Emily Kenway in conversation with Satbir Singh, our CEO, to hear more about the book, and the stark contrast between the government’s rhetoric on combating modern slavery and its track record of knowingly creating the conditions for slavery and exploitation to thrive. To register for the event click here

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