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Has the Home Office set up a team to deal with high profile immigration cases?


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Brian White, abandoned as a baby, lived in a Zimbabwean orphanage until the age of six. He was fostered, and later adopted, by the White family in Wolverhampton. He came to the UK to join the family when he was 15, at which point he should have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, the Home Office instead, wrongly, granted him Limited Leave to Remain. This mistake was only brought to light after he was refused naturalisation: he was awarded a place at Oxford University but this refusal now threatened to put his future in doubt.

Cue a petition which received over 100,000 signatures. The result? The Home Office have just approved Brian’s renewed application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.


This appears to be a recent trend. Consider the story of Jan-Dinant Schreuder and Monica Obiols, both 49 years of age, both of whom had resided in the UK for over 25 years. They applied for Permanent Residence alongside their children. While their applications were successful, those of their children were refused. Yet after their case was reported by national newspapers, the Home Office swiftly reversed their decision. Similarly, Monique Hawkins, a Dutch woman who had lived in the UK for 24 years with two British teenage children, received a letter not only refusing her permanent residence application, but which told her to make preparations to leave the UK, ignoring her ongoing right to remain. After her case was publicised in the newspapers, the Home Office quickly changed its mind, offering her permanent residence, and a courtesy phone call to check her residence card had come – but only once she resubmitted her application.

Ehsan Abdollahi, children’s illustrator for the publisher Tiny Owl, was initially refused a visit visa to attend and host workshops at Edinburgh Book Festival. Yet after a groundwell of public support, the Home Office changed its mind. Just a month later, the Home Office quickly reversed its refusal to grant a visit visa for writer Avner Pariat after The Bookseller asked them for a comment on the original decision.

These decisions come after last year, when the Home Office performed a U-turn after refusing a visit visa for Palestinian photojournalist Hamde Abu Rahma. The refusal resulted in widespread public support, including the SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, who described the objections of the Home Office as ‘bogus’.

It appears that the Home Office may recently have created a team who can accelerate decision making in response to such public criticism in individual decisions. It would seem that a successful case must be viewed sympathetically by newspapers.

It is eminently sensible for the Home Office to quickly change faulty decisions when they are pointed out publicly. Furthermore, this is consistent with their own internal guidance: any decision which might attract media attention must be signed off at a higher level.

This too has implications for campaigners, newspaper and website editors, and individuals. A petition, article or retweet regarding an unfair immigration decision would appear now to be more likely to secure a positive result for the applicant concerned. This makes them a stronger tool for achieving success. That said, a note of caution should be sounded: such articles or petitions are unlikely to persuade the Home Office to break the Immigration Rules, but may result in a more generous – or simply correct – interpretation of the relevant rules and perhaps a swifter decision than would otherwise be the case. The last thing anyone wants is for a swell of petitions and articles to cause the Home Office to cut off their nose to spite their face, and remove the team.

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Paul Erdunast

Paul Erdunast is a barrister at Temple Garden Chambers in London (https://tgchambers.com/member-profile/paul-erdunast/). Prior to this he was Legal and Parliamentary Officer at ILPA, where he delivered immigration law training and spoke at conferences. In previous jobs he lectured on asylum law and provided EU migrants with immigration advice.