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Five things to consider when working with homeless migrants

Five things to consider when working with homeless migrants

Five things to consider when working with homeless migrants

Friday, February 3, 2017

Chloe Robinson is an immigration advisor with Praxis Community Projects on the Routes Home project. She spoke to Praxis’ Communications Manager, Sam Waller, about some of the important things to keep in mind when supporting homeless migrants.

1. Legal Aid may be available
Sometimes the assumption is made that migrants won’t have access to Legal Aid, but that isn’t always the case. Some instances where Legal Aid is available include:

• Applications for asylum.
• For survivors of trafficking. The National Referral Mechanism is used to identify victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensure they receive the appropriate support. Once identified, they are eligible for Legal Aid for any legal case (for example a case in the family court, or a case in the employment tribunal).
• Applications under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and "inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." For example, someone who has medical needs which mean they cannot safely return to their home country.
• For survivors of domestic violence who are in the UK on a spousal visa (and the spouse is British or has indefinite leave to remain in the UK). Legal Aid may also be available for spouses of EEA nationals who have survived domestic violence.
• For anyone faced with homelessness, a Community Care or Housing Solicitor can assist in making an application to the Homeless Persons Unit, or asking Social Services to provide accommodation.

2. Long-term residents can apply to settle in the UK
Non-EEA nationals in the UK legally for 10 continuous years can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Those in the UK either legally or without documents for 20 continuous years can apply for limited leave to remain. People in these categories should be referred to an accredited immigration advisor or a solicitor specialising in immigration. There is no legal aid for these types of cases, but there are charities who provide free advice and assistance.

3. ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ can be challenged
Sometimes people can be granted leave to remain in the UK subject to a ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ condition (NRPF), which means that they are unable to claim most benefits or social housing. The NRPF condition can be challenged if someone’s circumstances have changed. For example, if children become affected by the condition. Challenging NRPF for single people is more difficult, but can be possible e.g. if they are rough sleeping, in receipt of a very low wage, vulnerable or unwell. To challenge NRPF, a form called the “Request for a change of conditions of leave granted on the basis of family or private life” has to be completed. Only an accredited immigration advisor or the client themselves can complete the form.

4. Community Care assessments are available
In some cases, even if a person has NRPF or does not yet have immigration status, social services may have some duties to assist them. Community Care assessments are to evaluate whether an individual’s care needs are such that the local authority has an obligation to care for them. This could be because they have a disability, significant mental health needs, or illnesses related to drug and/or alcohol misuse. If you need to request an assessment, Legal Aid is available for this and you should contact a Community Care Solicitor.

5. EEA nationals who have been refused benefits need specialist advice
The law around EEA nationals’ rights of residence are complicated and changing fast. Confusingly, an EEA national can have a ‘right to reside’ in immigration law, but be refused benefits or housing because they don’t pass the ‘right to reside test’ in benefits or housing law. Sometimes decisions to refuse benefits may be incorrect. It’s important that people are referred to a specialist welfare benefits advisor who will look into their particular circumstances.

Finding advice

If you want to refer someone for advice, many London boroughs have useful directories of advice services that can easily be found online, broken down into different categories (e.g. immigration, welfare). For example, Advice Westminster and Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network .

You may also find the Right to Remain Toolkit useful, either for yourself or to pass on to clients. It’s a guide to the UK immigration and asylum system, which gives an overview of the legal system and procedures, as well as detailed information on rights and options at key stages.


Photo courtesy of © Praxis Community Projects/Katie Garner

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