Illegal Immigrant Text Message Campaign
David Cameron today stated that he ‘agrees with the principle’ of sending text messages to suspected illegal immigrants. These text messages suggest the recipients are illegal immigrants, despite some going to the wrong people.
This is the latest attempt by the Government to single out suspected illegal immigrants and put pressure onto them to leave the UK. It is part of the new ‘hostility’ toward illegal immigrants proposed by the Secretary of State earlier this month.
According to the Home Office only 14 people out of a total of 58,800 contacted were mistakenly asked if they had overstayed their visas.
But our experience suggests that the true number of people wrongly contacted is far higher. Several of our clients have received these text messages and they have caused considerable anxiety. In one case a Jamaican man who has been living in the UK for the past 47 years received a similar text message. The effects of the message on him were all the more serious as he had only weeks before been diagnosed with cancer. He immediately consulted us and we are taking urgent steps to seek to rectify his situation. We take the view that these text messages are indiscriminate and potentially harmful. Many otherwise law abiding people are receiving messages like this and they don’t know where to turn to for help. Often the text messages are followed us by phone calls from the Home Office demanding to know what arrangements the person has made for leaving the UK.
The indiscriminate approach is of grave concern. The fact is that not all illegal migrants fall into the same category. Some of our clients were brought to the UK 40 or 50 years ago from former colonies by their parents who have long since passed away and these people have been leading otherwise settled and normal lives, never realising that their immigration status is unclear. Many of these people never even knew they were doing anything wrong until they received the text message and sought professional help. Although we as lawyers are able to do a lot to help these people, the effects of receiving such a frightening text message and telephone call cannot be underestimated. We fear that some people receiving such messages might be driven to extreme measures.
Labour described the government’s tactic as “shambolic and incompetent”.
Some people suspected of having outstayed their visas were sent a text reading: “Our records show you may not have leave to remain in the UK. Please contact us to discuss your case.” Our enquiries suggest that the Home Office is obtaining details of suspected illegal immigrants from the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Benefits Agency as well as HMRC. Although we applaud any attempt to control migration and create a safer society, some of the tactics used by the Home Office in recent months are less than tactile.
The prime minister’s official spokesman acknowledged that the wording of the texts has changed since the campaign began.
Originally, they had included the phrase: “You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain.”
Anyone receiving such a text message should seek immediate and urgent independent legal advice from a specialist immigration solicitor. If you have received such a message and wish to discuss your circumstances with an expert immigration solicitor call 020 8401 7352 during working hours to arrange an appointment at our office.
For more information on this new campaign see: