THE UK immigration system actively and needlessly creates insecurity, is vastly over-complicated and expensive, and ensures that people are trapped in limbo, according to a new report.

Research from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) published today comes as Home Secretary Priti Patel pushes ahead with her “New Plan on Immigration” which seeks to close more existing routes to settlement in the UK.

JCWI said migrants are considered “temporary” for a decade and their research showed they were forced to reapply for the right to remain in their homes and jobs every 30 months, at a cost of thousands of pounds per person each time.

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However, they could lose their status if their time for renewal coincided with any kind of personal crisis, and “every part of their lives become criminalised”.

The charity is calling for new simplified routes to regularisation and long-term settlement in the UK, including support to (re)acquire status after five years of continuous residency, affordable visa fees, automatic visa renewals and birthright citizenship.

Report author Zoe Gardner, a policy advisor at JCWI, said: “People who call the UK home deserve dignity, security and the chance to put down roots, but our current immigration rules routinely deny people this opportunity, trapping them in a cycle of fees, forms and hostile immigration rules which make life unlivable.

“Many migrants are expected to pay over £12,000 in fees over the course of a decade and must renew their status every 2.5 years. Throughout this time, they are kept in limbo and left fearful that they will fall out of status.

“One small application error or a bout of illness can throw people off course, exposing them to the hostile environment and putting them at high risk of losing their jobs and their homes. Unsurprisingly, these rules systematically render many people undocumented, pushing them into exploitative work, poverty, and abuse.

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“It’s time government stopped criminalising migrants for falling off the maze-like route to permanent status, and instead created accessible, affordable pathways for migrants to get back on track.”

Adedayo, a JCWI client, said he had become undocumented for 10 years when the Home Office would not renew his visa after he suffered clinical depression.

“I felt like a prisoner with no way of escaping – I was trapped in exploitative work for years, earning just £3.50 an hour and trying to support my family with next to nothing,” he said.

“I wouldn’t wish what my family has gone through on my worst enemy.

“The Home Office needs to start listening to us and treating us with dignity, instead of pushing us into the hands of people willing to exploit us and away from all support.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: "All our fees are kept under review and we offer several fee waivers and exceptions from the need to pay an application fee. 

“Illegal working undercuts honest employers, puts vulnerable migrants at risk of exploitation, cheats legitimate job seekers out of employment and defrauds the public purse. Tackling this damaging crime is a key Government priority. 

“The Government is bringing forward a New Plan for Immigration that is fair but firm, which will stop the abuse of the system and expedite the removal of those who have no right to be here.”