Policy and Advocacy

HMSC is committed to working with our visitors and alongside other organisations in the sector to address systemic issues at the heart of the immigration system. Below are our previous policy and advocacy activities aiming to improve the personal wellbeing and legal position of migrants.

September 2023: ‘An Ocean of Unmet Need’ details the extent of the legal aid crisis

We worked with Public Law Project to co-author a research report compiling the latest available figures on immigration and asylum legal aid. The report illustrates what HMSC and our visitors experience daily: people are unable to access justice as dwindling legal aid capacity is outweighed by increased demand resulting from Home Office decisions. Out of 864 attempts to refer visitors to legal aid providers, we were only successful in 4.1% of referrals. Read the report here.

This information was gathered as part of pre-litigation research into a proposed judicial review against the Lord Chancellor, who, under s. 1(1) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has a duty to ‘make legal aid available’ in England & Wales for certain types of civil legal services, including specified immigration and asylum issues. Public Law Project has taken the first step in bringing legal proceedings against the Lord Chancellor, Alex Chalk KC, arguing that he is in breach of his constitutional duty. Find out more about the legal challenge here.

April 2023: Young Legal Aid Lawyers report on the legal aid sector

HMSC contributed to a report on the issues facing young practitioners in the immigration and asylum legal aid sector. The report discusses the consequences these issues may have on access to justice. Read the report here. Our data covered a six month period in which only 3% of referrals made on behalf of visitors in need of legal aided representation were successful. View our statistics and case studies here.

April 2023: Joint Committee on Human Rights written evidence submission on legal aid

HMSC joined a group of 47 organisations in submitting a response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The submission argued that current provision of legal aid is not compliant with the UK’s human rights obligations. There is a lack of capacity in the legal aid immigration sector with demand far outstripping supply. This means that “half of individuals seeking asylum and other vulnerable migrants (including minors and victims of trafficking and modern slavery) are now unable to access legal aid to ensure protection of their human rights.”

The submission calls for improved legal aid rates, reform of legal aid bureaucracy, access providers across the country, improved decision making from the Home Office, and an end to wider hostile environment policies. Read the submission here.

March 2023: Joint letter raising concerns over the new ‘Streamlined Asylum Process’ and the ‘Asylum Questionnaire’

HMSC joined over 170 other organisations and individuals supporting people seeking asylum to outline our concerns about the unfair, flawed and rushed approach to the ‘Asylum Questionnaire’. The joint letter to the Home Secretary explains the false assumptions underpinning the problem: “that a person seeking asylum, who may not be literate in English or at all, who may may be experiencing mental health problems or trauma, who may not have mental capacity, and who may be homeless, will be able to receive and complete this long, complex, and poorly drafted questionnaire without legal representation.”

Among a list of recommendations, the letter asks the Home Secretary to confirm questionnaire incompletion will not result in asylum claims being withdrawn. It also urges the Home Secretary to simplify the questionnaire, have it accompanied by a relevant translation and a user-friendly guide for the completion. The Home Office ought to ensure that the questionnaire is issued to individuals with legal representatives and give time for individuals to find and access legal representation. If it is not willing to do so, the Home Secretary should confirm how the policy in its existing form guarantees procedural fairness and respects the right of access to justice. View the Joint Letter here. Robert Jenrick, the Minister of State for Immigration, replied to the letter in May 2023. You can read his response here.

October 2021: Report on visitor experiences and access to immigration advice services

HMSC intern Emerald Rose carried out a focus group of our visitors in October 2021 to better understand the barriers they face in accessing immigration advice and their experiences of HMSC’s services. Emerald summarised her findings in this report.

October 2020: Joint letter requesting support for non-UK nationals experiencing homelessness this winter

HMSC and a group of homeless grassroots organisations have written a joint letter to local authorities requesting to see action plans for supporting homeless non-UK nationals in their area over the winter months and beyond. The organisations urge Local Authorities to release their action plans, reveal what other services and support will be provided and share how they have advocated to Central Government for a change in the law regarding NRPF restriction which pushes many people into destitution. Read the full letter here.

October 2020: Reverse the decision to evict people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and stop homelessness and destitution

HMSC has joined a collective of migrants’ rights organisations and individuals to express ‘deep concern’ for those facing homelessness following the decision to re-commence evictions of people living in asylum accommodation.

HMSC and others are calling for an immediate halt to the evictions of people who have been refused asylum, as well as for a fully funded duty to be placed on Local Authorities to accommodate people with NRPF conditions. This comes as the UK returns to Covid-19 alert level 4 with cases of the virus increasing.

The joint letter to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary said,

“We support the UK Government’s aim to eradicate rough sleeping in this Parliament; however it is clear that this cannot be achieved if evictions from asylum accommodation proceed in this way, and without an end to NRPF conditions which stop Local Authorities from being able to provide support to everyone who needs it. We therefore ask that you immediately reverse this decision so as to prevent people who have been refused asylum becoming homeless and destitute, and to protect the health and safety of both individuals and the general public.”

August 2020: Joint letter urging the government to review free school meals eligibility and extend ‘nutritional safety net’ to undocumented children and all NRPF families

HMSC is calling on the UK Government to ensure that children from low-income migrant families, and those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), receive free school meals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixty organisations and charities signed a joint letter to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, urging him to confirm that children living in poverty, including those affected due to their parents’ immigration status, will be eligible for free school meals permanently.

Update: As of April 2022, the government has permanently extended free school meal eligibility to include children from low income families with NRPF. The Children’s Society has more information and resources on this here.

June 2020: Open Letter calling on local authorities to support homeless people during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, regardless of immigration status

More than a hundred charities, campaign groups, lawyers and local councillors have urged local councils not to evict homeless people with NRPF from emergency accommodation provided through the Covid-19 homelessness response. The open letter also asks councils not to share homeless people’s information with the Home Office without their consent and to lobby for an end to the ‘no recourse to public funds (NRPF)’ system.

Migrants are particularly exposed to the racialised violence that is endemic among government institutions such as the Home Office. Local authorities have the power to mitigate the most harmful effects that impact migrants and should adopt anti-racist solutions: demand the abolition of NRPF policy and practice; commit to no data sharing; provide sanctuary. Read our open letter to local authorities here

May 2020: Submission to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s Inquiry into the Impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on homelessness and the private rented sector

HMSC volunteers Blue and Nandini led on researching and writing a report submitted by HMSC to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s Inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on homelessness and the private sector. It draws from HMSC’s experience trying to support homeless and rough sleeping migrants during the crisis. Read the report here.

May 2020: Open Letter to the Secretary of State for Housing

We joined forces with more than 60 groups and charities across England to call on the government not to leave anyone out of the plans to end homelessness during the Covid-19 crisis. Read our letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.