As the Windrush generation scandal sweeps the political scene, Birmingham based organisations warn against migrants falling prey to scammers. Ashiana Community Project reports on solicitors tricking vulnerable people, and GP surgeries discriminating against them. Also Migrant Voice representative gives advice on how migrants should follow a safe path.
Representing Migrant Voice in Birmingham, Salman Mirza explains how people can avoid being scammed on their immigration status. He says:
“Own your case. We see people who might have decisions and they don’t understand what that decision means”
Last autumn, Migrant Voices launched a campaign against rogue solicitors and for #HonestAdvice.
Ashiana Community Project also reports on law firms charging excessive amounts (up to over £1000) to fill in immigration forms. Their support workers also came across cases of illegal immigrants being charged thousands of pounds by solicitors. Despite investing such money, these people lost their cases in court.
But not only law firms seem to take advantage of vulnerable migrants. ACP workers say certain organisations also ask for money unemployed, struggling persons might not have. They inform some charities charge fees between £100 and £300 for help with basic forms, either immigration or employment related. As they might not know what else to do, such vulnerable immigrants keep giving money to dishonest solicitors or organisations.
ACP reports on GP surgeries overcharging and discriminating against migrants
According to the charity, also certain GP surgeries overcharge for the release of simple forms. One member of the team, who prefers to remain unnamed, says:
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. Cases of GPs bullying vulnerable people, who do not speak English, have also been reported to ACP.
Tracy (photo), Engagement Worker at ACP, also tells about a case she handled. The Department for Work and Pensions decided to close the case of a client with a physical disability. The company where he worked kept his job on hold for him to regain his health. He visited the hospital regularly to be seen by specialists, because he was experiencing extreme pain.
As he still needed his disability benefits, the client asked the GP for a note to support his re-application. According to ACP worker, the surgery refused, claiming they can only give a certain number of notes and not more. The situation left the patient without benefits, while he was unable to go back to work.
People receive bad advice also out of lack of expertize
Tracy from ACP, like Salman Mirza, advises migrants to find a reliable organisation to help them. In her experience, she says she offered support to a number of clients who made their situation worse by following bad advice. She explains this doesn’t always happen due to intentions to scam beneficiaries:
People are going to so called experts, individuals or companies which are not equipped or trained to give advice. One client paid one such a company and ended up in debt of over £5000, and everything done for them had been wrong.
The ACP team also point out on how each case needs an individual assessment. As an example, a refugee should follow a different path to an EU citizen.
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.
Note: I ran a media campaign for Ashiana Community Project. Also, I consider future collaboration with Migrant Voices.