Migration and Inclusion grantee We Belong have welcomed the new immigration rules that make it faster and more affordable for young people who have grown up in the UK to get the secure legal status known as Indefinite Leave to Remain. In June 2022, the government halved the route to settlement for young people from 10 to five years. Through their tireless advocacy with MPs, ministers and civil servants, We Belong were instrumental in achieving this important policy success.
The new rules mean that children who were not born in the UK but have spent seven continuous years living there, can get Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years instead of 10. The same applies to young people who were first granted leave between the ages of 18 and 24 years old and maintained leave for 5 years, they will now be eligible for permanent residence. This major campaign win could transform the lives of over 300,000 young people living in the UK today with precarious status. Previously, young people would have to wait a decade and spend nearly £13,000 in order to achieve Indefinite Leave to Remain. Once a person has this status, they are not required to pay exorbitant international tuition fees at university.
We Belong provided witness statements and case studies, particularly on the devastating impact of the former Limited Leave to Remain process. Through this advocacy, they became trusted experts, who were even called to sign off on the implementation of the new five-year settlement programme.
The case studies and witness statements drew upon We Belong’s approach to storytelling, where young people can tell their own experiences and be heard. The goal is for these narratives to cut through the noise to inspire real change. However, We Belong never see young people as a means to a campaign end, but prioritise their wellbeing above all other considerations. For those who do choose to tell their stories publicly, We Belong works hard to avoid re-traumatisation, a common risk associated with reliving stressful experiences. We Belong provide a range of support including a trained mental health first aider, subsidised therapy, group healing exercises and referrals for the more specialised cases.
We Belong was founded in 2019 and works for the fair treatment of young migrants in the UK and for the removal of barriers preventing their full integration. The value of lived experience is built into the organisation’s DNA, with the CEO, all front-line staff and several board members all having experienced the UK’s immigration system. The mission of We Belong is threefold – to foster relationships with decision-makers and advocate for young migrants; to raise awareness of the hostile environment and issues around access to higher education; and to empower young migrants to become change agents. To do this, We Belong engages in advocacy with civil servants, MPs, universities, and businesses. It also engages in strategic campaigning, training young migrants to be leaders, and providing them with information and occasional emergency funds.
Having achieved this national legislative change in an extraordinarily short period of time, We Belong are now deploying a hyperlocal strategy to identify and engage with potential beneficiaries.
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