Speaking for Ourselves

Migrant Voice launches new report in Houses of Parliament

Migrant Voice launches new report in Houses of Parliament


 Migrant Voice - Migrant Voice launches new report in Houses of Parliament


A full room of migrants, organisations and politicians welcomed the launch of our newest report, “Destroying hopes, dreams and lives: How the UK visa costs and process impact migrants’ lives” in the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

The report investigates the struggles people face for the right to live in this country. Being forced to pay exorbitant visa fees and thousands of pounds in additional costs, many experience destitution, exploitation at work, poor mental health and, in many cases, debt.

The report kickstarts the next stage of our campaign to reduce visa costs for migrants and make the visa application quicker and simpler.

Migrant Voice presented the report’s findings, followed by migrants’ experiences of immigration and paying for visa fees and by experts’ insights on the current UK immigration system and its issues. Migrants, organisers, and activists were in the audience, as well as six Members of Parliament who came to support our cause.

Migrants speaking on the panel included Tamara Francis, who has lived in the UK since she came here as a 9-year-old in 1999, and who is still paying visa fees. She told the audience about losing her job because her visa was approaching its expiration date. “My manager came to me and said, ‘I’m sorry … If it happened to me, it would break me, I am sorry.’”

Mariko Hayashi said she had lived in the UK for seven years, paying for several visas before she left the country as she did not find a sponsor for her work visa, and her partner did not then meet the income requirements to sponsor her. When she moved again to the UK, she had to restart her settlement route from scratch as the many years she had already spent in the country didn't count. Mariko also explained the impact the fees have on many in her community. “These high visa fees affect many people's fundamental human rights,” she said.

Takesh Hibbert, from Birmingham, talked about her 30-year battle to be recognised as British. “I remember being pregnant with my youngest child and not being able to find a pushchair,” she said.

Academic Aba Kristilolu spoke of being “effectively a prisoner” in the UK when the Home Office retained his passport almost continuously between 2007 and 2013. “I could not travel for work. I could not travel when my father-in-law died,” he said.

Bell Ribeiro Addy, MP for Streatham, chaired the event. She said the issue of visa costs has seemed to go unnoticed by the public – until now. “During the Covid-19 pandemic people protested against the Immigration Health Surcharge,” she said, mentioning the yearly £624 fee migrants must pay on top of their visas, which was scrapped for NHS workers in May 2020. “But do you know for how many years and how much people pay to stay in this country?”

Kate Osamor, MP for Edmonton, acknowledged the importance of our report, which provides data and research essential for campaigning to reduce visa costs. She added: “The Home Office is not here to help. The Home Office is here to inflict pain, and it is horrible to see.”

Dan Carden, MP for Liverpool Walton, said that he was “shocked” by the stories he had been listening to, and offered his support to our campaign.

Claudia Webbe, MP for Leicester East, talked about the “unacceptable” experiences of many of her constituents: “We have people who have lived in the constituency for more than 20 years and still have to face these unjust, inhumane charges.”

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, said she regularly met people who “have spent an absolute fortune just for the right to live in this country. It’s just unjustifiable and unjust.” She renewed her support for our cause and for her constituents.

Two speakers shared their expertise on the exorbitant visa costs and the intricate visa application system.

Swansea University lecturer Jon Burnett said that targets have been set to profit from immigration fees. “What we’re actually talking about is a tax on people and their existence,” he added. “This report makes it very clear: this is violent and it’s cruel.”

Zoe Bantleman, legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, said migrants are divided into “good” and “bad” depending on their visa or settlement route, with the “bad” ones being punished with longer, more expensive routes.

Fidelis Chebe, director of Migrant Action, commended Migrant Voice for “providing a voice … to men, women and children crying out for help ... The suffering has been going on for too long.”

Migrants and organisers from the floor also shared their experiences and engaged in the discussion. They included Mictin, a nurse campaigning to reduce the Indefinite Leave to Remain fee for NHS workers, and Reunite Families, who shared the plea of single mothers being separated from their partners due to visa costs.

We said this clearly last night and we will repeat it again: the fight for a fairer visa and immigration system goes on.

Read our report here.

Get in touch

Migrant Voice
VAI, 200a Pentonville Road,
N1 9JP

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: [email protected]

Registered Charity
Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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