Illegal immigrants who survived the Grenfell Tower fire will be given the chance to become permanent residents of Britain.
The government’s immigration minister Brandon Lewis said the 12 months’ limited leave, granted to eligible individuals who come forward by November 30, will now be extendable and lead to a permanent right to remain in the UK after five years, subject to meeting security, criminality and fraud checks.
The legal aid and advice organisation North Kensington Law Centre, based in the shadow of Grenfell, said it welcomed the announcement.
Mr Lewis also announced that relatives of survivors and victims who have already been granted entry to the UK for reasons relating to the tragedy will be given the right to stay in the country for six months.
Mr Lewis said in a written ministerial statement: “Our initial response to this terrible tragedy was rightly focused on survivors’ immediate needs in the aftermath of the fire and ensuring they could access the services they need to start to rebuild their lives.
“However, since the Grenfell Tower immigration policy was announced, we have been planning for the future of those residents affected by these unprecedented events and listening to their feedback, as well as the views of (Grenfell inquiry chairman) Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
“The government believes it is right to provide the specific group of survivors who are eligible for limited leave to remain under the dedicated immigration policy greater certainty over their long-term future in the UK, subject to their continued eligibility and the necessary security and criminality and fraud checks being met.”
Addressing the decision to allow overseas Grenfell friends and relatives to remain in the country for up to six months, he added: “This new dedicated immigration policy allows relatives who have come to the UK and who were initially granted less than six months’ leave in order to provide a short period of support to a survivor or to arrange the funeral of a family member to extend their stay to six months in total.”
Campaigners , members of Kensington and Chelsea Council and local MP Emma Dent Coad have been calling for survivors to be granted permanent residency .
They had argued that due to the uncertainty people were unlikely to take part in the Grenfell Tower inquiry or access help and support.
But a North Kensington Law Centre spokesman said: “Campaigning groups have repeatedly pushed ministers to go much further and formulate policies that properly address the needs of the community in North Kensington.
“Until now, the Home Office’s approach seriously risked silencing the voices of undocumented survivors in the Grenfell Inquiry and was clearly failing to encourage undocumented individuals to access support.
“Ministers must now ensure they effectively communicate this policy to give confidence to those survivors who haven’t yet been able to come forward.”
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