Grenfell Tower fire survivors whose immigration status was uncertain are to be given the chance to become permanent residents of Britain, the Government has announced.
The move by Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis follows a torrent of criticism that the one-year immigration amnesty initially granted to foreign national survivors left them in limbo.
In a written statement to the House of Commons, Lewis has now said survivors of the June 14 inferno will have a route to permanent residence.
The 12 months’ limited leave, granted to eligible individuals who come forward by November 30, will now be extendable and lead to a permanent right to remain in the UK after five years, subject to meeting security, criminality and fraud checks.
Lewis said: “Our initial response to this terrible tragedy was rightly focused on survivors’ immediate needs in the aftermath of the fire and ensuring they could access the services they need to start to rebuild their lives.
“However, since the Grenfell Tower immigration policy was announced, we have been planning for the future of those residents affected by these unprecedented events and listening to their feedback, as well as the views of (Grenfell inquiry chairman) Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
“The Government believes it is right to provide the specific group of survivors who are eligible for limited leave to remain under the dedicated immigration policy greater certainty over their long-term future in the UK, subject to their continued eligibility and the necessary security and criminality and fraud checks being met.”
Lewis also announced that relatives of survivors and victims who have already been granted entry to the UK for reasons relating to the tragedy will be given the right to stay in the country for six months.
“This new dedicated immigration policy allows relatives who have come to the UK and who were initially granted less than six months’ leave in order to provide a short period of support a survivor or to arrange the funeral of a family member to extend their stay to six months in total,” he said.
Separately, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said that all Grenfell survivors currently living in hotels will be out of emergency accommodation by Christmas.
The tragic fire, which killed around 80 in June, left 203 households from the Tower and neighbouring Grenfell Walk in need of rehousing.
So far, just 10 of them have moved into permanent new homes, with a further 44 in temporary accommodation, he told the House of Commons Communities Committee.
Another 40 households have accepted the offer of permanent homes and 17 have taken temporary accommodation, but have not yet moved in. This leaves 92 households yet to be found new homes, many of whom are living in hotels.
Asked how soon he hoped to find permanent homes for all survivors, Mr Javid said: “Our priority in doing this is to listen very carefully to what each family wants, what they say their needs are and to move at their pace.
“If they change their minds or are unclear as a family whether they want to be near their old homes or be further away or outside the borough, we are giving them time. No-one is being pushed at all in any way in trying to reach a decision.
“There are still some families, particularly bereaved families, who are not ready to make a decision and don’t want to engage in the process.”
Mr Javid said the council had already acquired 167 properties for use as permanent homes by Grenfell survivors, and aims to have 300 available by Christmas, including some which may be given to families from social housing near to the Tower which was damaged by the fire.
The aim was to get all survivors out of emergency accommodation by Christmas, except in cases where individuals say that they wish to remain in their hotel room, said Javid, adding that he had “every reason to believe” that this would be possible.