Campaigners brand immigration amnesty for Grenfell Tower residents a 'cover up'
A one-year immigration amnesty offered to undocumented residents of Grenfell Tower has been branded a "cover up" by campaigners as the deadline for signing up passed.
The Home Office gave survivors of the June 14 inferno who were living in the country illegally a window of protection from deportation to encourage them to come forward to authorities.
It followed concern that valuable evidence about the events surrounding the fire would be lost without their cooperation. Those wishing to benefit from the arrangement had until August 31 to apply.
However campaign group Justice4Grenfell warned the gesture 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, 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."
It added that it "seriously" doubts many survivors had 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 said 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.