Immigration Bill

Written evidence submitted by The British Red Cross (IB 61)


We welcome the opportunity to submit to the Scrutiny Panel at Committee Stage of the Immigration Bill 2013.

The British Red Cross provides practical and emotional support to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. As a part of our humanitarian mandate, we help such vulnerable people whether in Darfur or Darlington.

We operate in 48 towns and cities across the whole of the United Kingdom working with asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants. We often find ourselves as the final port of call across the UK for desperate people in crisis seeking the basic essentials of life such as food and clothes.

Our response will focus on issues in which the British Red Cross has the most experience of in light of our work in supporting these clients. Throughout this document "clients" refers to asylum seekers, refugees and refused asylum seekers who have accessed BRC services.

In summary, the main concerns that the British Red Cross has about the Immigration Bill is that the provisions are so restrictive as to exclude asylum seekers, end-of-process asylum seekers and those with Indefinite Leave to Remain from vital areas of support. Without these vital supports the levels of humanitarian suffering amongst these already marginalised groups will substantially increase.

Definition of illegal immigrant

One of the Immigration Bill’s aims is to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants. Yet with no clarification on who counts as being a legal person, we are concerned that many of our clients are likely to fall within the Bill’s restrictions despite the fact that their initial claim to remain in the UK was for international protection [1] .

The core of our concern is that in many of the provisions of the Bill it remains unclear how refused asylum seekers, or those who are currently at the end of the asylum process but may have further ground to remain, will be treated under the provisions.


Administrative review

Administrative review is proposed as an alternative to the appeals process. However, decision making by the Home Office can be poor and there is no guarantee that the new system of reviews will be a substantial improvement.

We do however welcome the fact that the Bill seeks to preserve rights of appeal for decisions concerning claims for refusal and revocation of protection under the Refugee Convention and decisions to refuse human rights claims.

Article 8 cases

The Government has also set out what the public interest requires when a court or tribunal considers a claim on the grounds of Article 8 of the ECHR. It is concerning that neither ‘financially independent’ nor ‘precarious immigration status’ are defined within the Bill.

In brief, although legislating for the behaviour of those with outstanding asylum may appear viable, in all likelihood there will be little behaviour change amongst clients in regards to matters within the scope of Article 8.

As our clients may have reasonable expectations as to the strength of their claims to remain in the U.K. while starting a family or other such activity they may well be reasonably entitled to expect that any further attempt at removal will be unlikely.

However, because of a final negative decision (at least at first instance) they will actually be removed. The new public interest test may not reflect this dynamism that is in-built to any individual’s asylum claim. This is especially true in light of the fact that one out of every three refusals of asylum is overturned at appeal.

We are therefore concerned that such an attempt to restrict such grounds for remaining in country on Article 8 grounds will cause suffering to people who may have had a reasonable expectation of exercising their rights otherwise protected under the article.

Access to services

Residential tenancies

The British Red Cross remains concerned that the definition of who has the "right to rent" is delegated to the Home Secretary [1] . Again the central concern is that those who are at the end of the asylum process will find themselves without the right to rent.

A further difficulty will be posed for those who have an outstanding application to extend their leave or make a further submission. People who have made an in-time application to extend their leave or have historic outstanding applications will be without their identity documents as the Home Office will be holding these. This is also the case for a client who has been refused and appealed the decision and/ or made a further submission for asylum on new grounds.

Furthermore, as identified above, checking somebody’s immigration status is complex and time consuming. This may result in our clients being discriminated against on the basis of administrative convenience, leaving them at the mercy of the ‘shadow’ housing market.

Our concern is that we will see increased homelessness and destitution amongst this extremely vulnerable group, We help around 6000 destitute people a year in the UK. The number of the clients we assist who are destitute is increasing. With no means to access residential property many will have nowhere else other than the British Red Cross to turn to for help.


The vulnerable clients we see are already likely to access care later than they would because of their immigration status and experience difficulties accessing medical care.

Our overriding concern is that, as a result of Clause 34 (as introduced), those that have Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) and refused asylum seekers may not even have access the Health Service because of charges imposed under Clause 33 (as introduced). This is especially concerning in relation to the former group who are often granted DLR to reflect their precarious status (if returned to their country of origin) but who would not otherwise meet the high threshold of the Refugee Convention.

These groups already suffer destitution and are highly vulnerable and as such one of the particular concerns is around mental health service provision. If such groups are classed as "not ordinarily resident" and denied access to free primary care then we will be effectively consigning a large group of vulnerable people to living unsupported with serious mental health problems (some of whom will be survivors of torture). This says nothing of the further threat to public health from infectious diseases outside the exemptions of HIV and TB. Antenatal care is another example where not providing initial primary care is likely to lead to expensive and preventable complications for both mothers and babies, who will then be entitled to care.

We encourage the Government to seriously contemplate the effects of removing free access to NHS care from asylum seekers (at any stage of the process) or imposing charges upon them, which many could not pay.

Furthermore, General Practices (GP) are currently ill equipped to judge the immigration status of an individual. We already witness asylum seekers, refugees, pregnant women and those receiving section 4 or 95 support being refused treatment due to a lack of understanding. The proposed new legislation may be similarly unworkable because of the time consuming and complex assessments that GPs will be further expected to make. We are concerned that due to time constraints and lack of understanding it will become the easier option to simply refuse to register asylum seekers and thus vulnerable migrants will be inadvertently discriminated against.



To mitigate these risks, we suggest that the Government:

· Clearly defines the groups to which all measures will apply, including ‘financially independent’ and ‘precarious immigration status’;

· Ensures all our clients are able to prove their immigration status or exempt them from restrictions on renting private accommodation or accessing free NHS care. There must also be legal safeguards to ensure that landlords and GPs are unable to discriminate amongst these groups under the auspices of the Immigration Bill’s restrictions.

· Ensures that refused asylum seekers and those with Discretionary Leave to Remain are not further placed at risk as a result of the bill’s provisions.

November 2013

[1] As highlighted in the Bill’s Second reading this is not a black and white situation. Some people have no status because of administrative failings and delays within the asylum system. In fact the time it takes to get an initial decision is increasing and at the end of March 2013 there were still 32,000 legacy asylum cases to be resolved . Others have no status because they are end-of-process; yet may not be able to return to their own country because their government will not provide them with travel documents, they are too sick to travel or there is no viable route home.

[1] Clause 15(6) - Power to amend Schedule 3 to vary the list of agreements of a description excluded from the definition of "residential tenancy agreement". We partially welcome that this would, however, be by Affirmative Resolution.

Prepared 20th November 2013