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Could the UK's New Digital Immigration System Mirror the Windrush Scandal?

Jul 08, 2024

A significant group of individuals and companies within Immigration Law have collaborated with the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA), to compose a letter to the Deputy Director of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) expressing deep concerns about the UK's upcoming shift to a digital-only eVisa system.

With the approaching deadline of 31st December 2024 for the full implementation of the digital immigration system, there is a genuine worry that millions of migrants in the UK could face severe repercussions.

The letter strongly cautions that this transition may result in a situation reminiscent of the Windrush scandal, leaving individuals struggling to validate their right to enter, reside, work, rent homes, and travel within the UK. The potential ramifications include the risk of losing housing, job opportunities, and the ability to reunite with family or return to their homes, schools, or jobs in the UK.

In their recent correspondence to UKVI, ILPA and other concerned organisations have outlined five overarching issues regarding the impending changes.

To begin with, they highlight a lack of cohesion in the broader digitalisation strategy of the immigration system. "There seems to be a disjointed approach across various Home Office policy teams, departments, officials, etc., failing to provide a unified and comprehensive overview of all the changes being introduced, particularly with the critical deadline of 31st December 2024... It appears that each policy change is being considered in isolation, without taking into account the broader implications of other policy changes sharing the same timeline," commented ILPA and the affiliated organisations.

Furthermore, the letter expresses grave concerns about the Home Office's self-imposed deadline of 31st of December 2024 and the absence of a transitional phase. The organisations assert that this abrupt shift will pose a "disastrous cliff-edge" for the numerous migrants affected by the change in the UK.

Additionally, the letter raises alarms about the inadequate preparation for potential technical errors in the new digital-only system. As emphasised by ILPA and others, technical glitches could prevent migrants from working, renting, banking, or accessing essential services if they are unable to prove their immigration status. "The Home Office has had five years to prepare for the phase-out of BRPs and Biometric Residence Cards, yet it has failed to establish a safety net during this time to shield individuals from the adverse impacts of technological failures, such as outages, glitches, or security breaches," the letter states.

Moreover, the letter underscores that vulnerable migrants are likely to be disproportionately affected. The engagement of the Home Office with these vulnerable migrant groups has been deemed insufficient by ILPA and the collaborating organisations.

Lastly, the letter expresses concerns about the lack of public awareness regarding the 31st of December 2024 deadline. Additionally, the current communications lack clarity and fail to provide adequate information about the implications of the upcoming changes.

The letter concludes with four concise recommendations to mitigate the adverse effects of the new digital-only immigration system. UKVI is urged to acknowledge and act upon these recommendations.

Are you concerned about what this might mean for you or your company? - Get in touch today [email protected]  or call 01403 801801

You can download the open letter here.

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