Birmingham-based organisations have warned migrants to be on the lookout for exploitative behaviour in the wake of the Windrush generation scandal.
Solicitors tricking vulnerable people, GP surgeries discriminating against migrants, and “throwing good money after bad” have been highlighted as problems by representatives from Ashiana Community Project and Migrant Voice.
Ashiana Community Project (ACP) has shone a spotlight on law firms charging over £1000 to fill in immigration forms — just months after Migrant Voice launched the #HonestAdvice campaign against rogue solicitors.
— Migrant Voice (@MigrantVoiceUK) October 19, 2017
Support workers at the charity reported encountering cases of illegal immigrants being charged thousands of pounds by solicitors before losing their cases in court, while some charities charged fees of between £100 and £300 for help with basic forms.
GP surgeries overcharging migrants
One member of the team, who prefers to remain unnamed, says she also saw evidence of migrants being overcharged by GP surgeries:
“Some doctor surgeries overcharge clients for medical summaries, with fees of up to £120, when it should not exceed £50.
“There have been multiple cases where GPs have refused to give sick notes to patients with dire health conditions. This led to the patient being sanctioned by DWP [Department for Work and Pensions]. Cases of GPs bullying vulnerable people, who do not speak English, have also been reported to ACP.”
Tracy, an Engagement Worker at ACP, says that in one case she handled the Department for Work and Pensions decided to stop providing welfare payments to a client with a physical disability after his GP refused to provide a note to support his re-application on the basis that they could only issue a certain number of notes every year.
People receive bad advice as a result of a lack of expertise
Tracy advises migrants to find a reliable organisation to help them, having seen a number of clients who made their situation worse by following bad advice.
“People are going to so-called experts, individuals or companies which are not equipped or trained to give advice.
“One client ended up in debt of over £5000 one such company and everything done for them had been wrong.”
The ACP team highlight that each case should have an individual assessment: a refugee, for example, should follow a different path to an EU citizen.
Salman Mirza of Migrant Voice is also concerned about the poor advice being given to migrants, and urges those challenging immigration decisions to “Own your case.”
“We see people who might have decisions and they don’t understand what that decision means.
“What we’ve seen is solicitors who might say you’ve got a very good case here and they clearly haven’t, and the clients keep throwing good money after bad. We want solicitors to be honest.”
Besides seeking help from a reliable organisation, Salman recommends to put everything in writing. He says:
“If you are speaking to your solicitor, email them to confirm the conversation. So that everything is in writing, so you’ve got a record of all the discussions.
“In a sense, writing is God. If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen. Don’t use that only for immigration, you can use it for employment law.”
Disclosure: Catalina George has worked for Ashiana Community Project in the past on a media project. A version of this story first appeared on her website LandInside.