Most of the undocumented population in the UK is made up of people who came here legally, but subsequently lost their status, very often through no fault of their own. Some make the difficult decision to leave an abusive partner or an exploitative employer, even though it means they will lose their immigration status. Others grow up assuming they’re British, only to be told that they aren’t, even though they’ve never known any other country. And some fall out of regular status because they can’t afford the skyrocketing fees to renew their visa or to challenge an incorrect decision made by the Home Office.

The minority who arrive here without documents are often those who are fleeing danger or who have a strong claim to be given status in Britain – for example because close family members are here – but no legal way of entering the country to make that claim.
In those circumstances, it’s essential that there are safe and clear routes to regular status, so that people can get on with their lives, work safely, raise their families and pay their taxes. As a rich, developed nation we can afford to help people escape irregular status. Doing so will only contribute to our social and economic prosperity.

Applications cost well over £8,000 for migrants on the 10 year route to settlement.

Our recommendations

  • Create safe, robust and flexible routes to documentation so that people can quickly and easily regularise their immigration status
  • Give legal status and the right to work to those who have been refused the right to remain but for whom it is impossible to return to their country of origin
  • Reinstate birth-right citizenship (revoked only in the 1980s) to ensure that any child who has only ever known the UK as their home is not at risk of being treated as undocumented
  • Re-establish equal and free access to the NHS for all so that no one suffers or dies in secrecy and silence
  • Provide adequate support for statelessness determination procedures and for individuals’ attempts at outreach with foreign governments

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