In a fitting coincidence, last month’s Inaugural Windrush Day was marked at Cambridge House by some hard-earned news about a long-standing case, when a vulnerable Law Centre client was granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. Mr L came to England in the early 70s on a UK passport, and worked consistently until the late 00s when his mental health broke down. Over the last decade, immigration rules left him in a situation where he was unable to work, denied benefits and regularly threatened with eviction. Faced with destitution, homelessness and deportation, Mr L’s story drives home the importance of free legal support.
Mr L has been with us since 2009, when he was first threatened with eviction, and his solicitor Stuart Herne worked for many years to keep him housed and protect his right to benefits. His case was then taken on by solicitors Gurminder Birdi and latterly Sharon Gunard, alongside pro-bono barrister Desmond Rutledge and the Migrant Legal Centre.
Last year Mr L’s benefits were stopped and he was faced with eviction again. Through Gurminder and Desmond’s work, he is now receiving Housing Benefit and a backdated payment to clear his rent arrears and keep him in his home. However, he was still left in flux by his immigration status. Gurminder and another Law Centre solicitor, Serdar Celebi, paid him a visit in the hope of convincing him to push for full rights to remain in Britain. Our Law Centre Manager Pamela Robotham arranged for the Migrant Legal Centre to approach the Home Office, and Sharon and Gurminder accompanied him to his first appointment. Mr L’s paranoia means he distrusts everyone apart from our Law Centre staff, particularly Gurminder, and only attended his Home Office appointment once we’d secured permission for her to attend as well.
Mr L has finally been given confirmation of his Indefinite Leave to Remain – with the home office waiving the usual £2,389 fee attached to Indefinite Leave to Remain applications. After a long and trying case, Mr L is staying in his home. Sharon also got the government to pay Mr L income benefits and backdated payments, and after supporting his immigration case the Migrant Law Centre are helping Mr L go on to apply for full British Citizenship.
However, only the housing work was paid for by Legal Aid, the system that provides legal assistance to those unable to afford representation. Some of the work was funded directly by Southwark Council, and a significant amount was pro-bono. Pamela Robotham, our Law Centre Manager, said:
“This emphasises the desperate need to restore Legal Aid for welfare benefits work, as there are clearly countless out there who cannot access the few services like ours that have alternative sources of funding or can provide expertise for free. Many have lost their homes by the time they have resolved their immigration problem.
It’s Windrush Day today. Big up to Gurminder and Sharon as without their hard work, expertise and dedication, our client would still be holed up in his flat under his blankets with no money, food, heat, light or hope. Client’s birthday is next week, his immigration status is now secure and he has money to live on. Result!!!”