What are going to be some of the major issues for Londoners in 2023 and what changes do we need to tackle them?
At the start of the New Year, we've been asking organisations that we fund to look ahead to the next 12 months. In this piece, Kimberly Garande from We Belong and Ibrahim Avcil from Refugee Workers and Cultural Association discuss 2023 for London's migrants.
The Cost-of-living crisis is a key issue affecting many people across the UK. As the means of living become more unaffordable, the crisis will lay a heavy burden on migrants who are in the process of regularising their immigration status.
Under the current system, migrant applicants must rely on applying to the Home Office to regularise their status. The current cost for their right to remain in the UK is £2,600 in excess, which tethers many in a costly process to maintain it as thousands of migrants in the UK are reliant on the regularisation of their immigration status in order to work, access education, health services and more.
Last year, there were insurmountable reports of families struggling to afford to feed themselves and keep their homes warm amid rising living costs. The harsh reality as a result of inflation is another hurdle for migrants on the margins of society.
They will be facing the tentacles of this nationwide issue through the lingering clutch of the hostile environment policies which make life more difficult for migrants living in the UK. Families will be forced to choose between paying steep fees to maintain their immigration status or acquiring essentials and adequate housing conditions.
We Belong would like to see change through more humane approaches to policy decisions and a review of the extortionate immigration application fees. We would like to see an increase in fee waivers and a removal of no recourse to public funds conditions.
As 2022 passes the baton onto a new year, we’ve no doubt that many of the issues that have compounded over the past few years are also being carried over.
Events such as Brexit, COVID-19 and, most recently, an intense cost of living crisis which has gripped businesses and workers across the spectrum have set off, or worsened, many of the issues impacting on people’s everyday lives. Migrant workers – both documented and undocumented – are especially vulnerable.
Through our research we know that low pay – below minimum wage – and a lack of basic worker rights, such as holiday entitlement, sick pay and maternity pay, are rife among migrant workers in London. These are major problems that will continue throughout 2023.
Exploitation of migrant workers is an extensive and multi-faceted issue – but financial instability is a key factor. The cost of living in London is high and accommodation – more specifically, rent – is the greatest expense.
Expensive housing cost acts as the trigger for many other problems. The risk of exploitation at work; falling into debt; poor mental health; domestic violence; poor nutrition; drug addiction – all of these issues and more are made more likely by a lack of disposable income after paying rent.
We need to better understand these issues faced by migrant workers, with an emphasis on housing. More research should take place, both qualitative and quantitative, to identify the necessary solutions to alleviate rent induced problems faced by migrant workers. The approach will need to take place at both a policy and grassroots level.
At a policy level, we would like it to be made easier for migrant workers to be able to legally rent rooms or homes without extensive documentation, levels of income declarations and other administrative burdens.
We would also like to see an independent community-led regulatory body which assesses private rent and landlord misconduct – available in multiple language. Those facing evictions should be able to access emergency funds to prevent homelessness.
Finally, undocumented migrant workers – whose issues are compounded by their immigration status – should be offered a resolution or amnesty, to protect them when they rent private accommodation.
About the authors:
Kimberly Garande is the Youth Development Lead at We Belong. We Belong is a migrant you-led organisation, campaigning for the rights of young migrants.
Ibrahim Avcil works for the Refugee Workers Cultural Association. In 2022, he was the lead researcher on a new report showing the perspectives of migrant Turkish and Kurdish workers in North London.