Young British migrants say: 'We stand in solidarity with Windrush kids.'
Let us Learn campaigners stage Downing Street vigil to show support for previous generation of Commonwealth migrants.
Protest will highlight how lawful young migrants are also under threat from the government's 'hostile environment' because of rocketing Home Office fees.
Young people who have grown up in the UK say they are being put at risk of becoming 'illegal', because the cost of the regular Home Office applications they have to make are now beyond the reach of ordinary families.
Since 2014, the fees have increased by 238% to £2,033* this year.
Let us Learn - a group of ambitious 16-24 year olds who have grown up in the UK – are running a campaign, calling on Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP: 'Please freeze our fees!' We are also asking for a government review of the impact of spiralling fees on the lives of lawful young migrants.
Chrisann Jarrett, Let us Learn co-lead says:
'We stand in solidarity with the Windrush kids. We are shocked but not surprised at their treatment by the Home Office, because we also know what it's like to suddenly have your Britishness called into question and be made to feel unwelcome in the country you grew up in. Many of us are also from Commonwealth countries and came here as young children. Yet when we turned 18, we found out the government regards us as "international students", which means we are charged higher fees than home students and do not qualify for student loans. On top of that, we have to pay higher and higher fees to maintain our lawful status, without which we would be denied NHS care and liable to removal from the country we are proud to call home.'
On Wednesday 18 April Let us Learn and our supporters will gather in front of Downing Street, to show our support for the 'Windrush kids', and to demonstrate against demonstrating against the spiralling cost of our immigration applications. This protest follows our ‘No limitation on aspiration’ event that was hosted by David Lammy MP in parliament in March, where young people shared their experiences and asked the government to put a freeze on further increases, pending a review of the impact on young people like us. Sadly, the government chose to ignore our request and on 6th April, announced a further increase in Home Office fees.
See full breakdown of fee increases since 2014, below*
Let us Learn is alarmed about the stories of the Windrush generation and the Home Office’s failure to recognise them as citizens of this country. The burden is placed on the individual to maintain and prove they are lawfully resident in the UK, yet with application fees rising to unaffordable levels, young people who have lived in the UK most of their lives are also at risk of being removed from the country which is their home and forcibly returned to a country which they have no recollection or ties with.
We welcome the fact that there is finally a public debate about the impact of the government's 'hostile environment' on law-abiding people like us and the Windrush kids. As the government now seeks to find a solution to the problems facing the Windrush generation, it’s important that they also recognise the unintended consequences on other lawful migrants.
Dami Makinde, 24, Let us Learn Co-Lead 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 more generally. 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, Let us Learn Co-Lead
'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’. Regardless of how long we have lived in the UK, 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 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 have risen
Home Office 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: £1,033; NHS surcharge: £1,000 (100% increase announced February 2018)
Year on year increase, at least 36%
Amount payable = at least £2,033
For more information, or to arrange an interview with a Let us Learn member contact 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
- 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
- The £2,033 figure is based on the Home Office application fee of £1,033, plus the £1,000 compulsory NHS surcharge. Following a government announcement in February 2018, the NHS surcharge is set to double from the current cost of £500. No date has been given for the increase.
- 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.
- Chrisann Jarrett was born in Jamaica 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.
- 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.
- 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 2018 cost £2,389). After holding ILR for a year, we are eligible to apply for naturalisation, which currently costs £1,282.
- 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