A one-year immigration amnesty offered to foreign nationals affected by the Grenfell Tower fire has been extended by three months, the Home Office has said.
Survivors of the June 14 inferno who were living in the country illegally were given a window of protection from deportation to encourage them to come forward to authorities.
It was due to close to new cases on Thursday but the Home Office confirmed the deadline has been extended until November 30.
Immigration minister Brandon Lewis said: “The welfare of survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire is a priority for this government.
“We believe that extending this policy for a further three months gives survivors further opportunity to come forward, both to receive support for the exceptionally traumatic events they have experienced and to provide essential first-hand accounts of the fire.”
Sir Martin Moore-Bick urged the Government to consider the long-term immigration status of Grenfell survivors (Philip Toscano/PA)
Mr Lewis added: “I also hope this extension will help to dispel people’s fears about coming forward to assist the inquiry into this horrific and unprecedented incident due to their immigration status.”
The Home Office has said it will not conduct immigration checks on survivors of the fire or those coming forward to assist the authorities.
Campaigners had earlier branded the immigration amnesty a “cover-up” and warned it lacked substance, as many wanted a guarantee to remain in the country permanently.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the retired judge leading the forthcoming public inquiry into the disaster, has also urged the Government to consider the long-term immigration status of survivors.
He wrote in a letter to Theresa May that he feared his investigation could be impacted without their evidence.
Justice4Grenfell said it “seriously” doubts many survivors have taken up an immigration amnesty offer. (John Stillwell/PA)
Justice4Grenfell, which works with some survivors, said in a statement: “The evidence of undocumented former residents of the Tower could be critical in establishing what actually happened on the night, why would the Government wish to prevent such evidence from being given?
“J4G are calling on the Government to both extend the deadline and to grant a lifetime amnesty to anyone who comes forward.
“To do otherwise merely reinforces the impression that the Government are hoping for a cover up as opposed to a real understanding of all the factors that led up to the disaster that is Grenfell.”
The group added that it “seriously” doubts many survivors have taken up the offer.
The Home Office said it would release information about how many had signed up at a later date.
In a document published earlier this month, the Government department told staff: “The Home Office will not use (the Grenfell Tower disaster) as a reason to carry out immigration checks on those receiving support or providing vital information to identify victims or otherwise assist the authorities investigating the fire.”
It went on that the “temporary” 12 month amnesty would be offered to those concerned about coming forward to authorities over their immigration status.
“This will give them a firm legal footing to ensure they can access ongoing support, including social assistance, local authority housing support or any welfare benefits they may be eligible for,” it added.