Dear Mr Bassie,
I read your column every week. I have a relative who is in the United Kingdom now. He did not arrive there legally and he is fed up and frustrated over not having legal status. He would like to return home but does not have any money.
You had mentioned possible programmes that are available for persons in this position. I know he would really appreciate any help or advice that you may be able to offer.
There are a number of programmes and services that are available through providers that could assist your relative.
There is the Assisted Voluntary Return of Irregular Migrants which comes to mind. This programme is primarily aimed at people who are in the United Kingdom illegally. It includes in this category those who have overstayed the time allowed by their visa or those who have been smuggled into the United Kingdom. It should be noted that this programme is not available if the person would like to return to a country that is in the European Union, and this programme is not aimed at anyone who has applied for asylum.
If a person makes a successful application and is accepted into this programme, there will be several services that will be available to him or her. These choices include receiving tickets to his or her home country; help with arranging the applicant's travel; and help with obtaining travel documents for the successful applicant.
You did not mention whether your relative had dependants who are in the same position as he is. If he does have family in a similar situation, then there is a programme known as the Assisted Voluntary Returns for Families and Children (AVRFC).
The AVRFC programme is available to both asylum seekers and irregular migrants. This programme is for families that have at least one child who is under 18 years old, and for individuals under 18 years.
The scheme is flexible and is set up to account for family needs. The programme is similar in support to the Voluntary and Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme; where each individual family member qualifies for reintegration assistance.
These services may be accessed through 'Choices Assisted Voluntary Return Service'. Choices is an organisation that primarily aims to advise and assist asylum seekers and irregular migrants who are considering voluntary return to their homeland. The Choices service is for asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers; families and children of those individuals in the United Kingdom with no legal status, that is, irregular migrants; and people with discretionary leave to remain.
One of the main services that is offered by Choices is confidential, impartial and non-directive advice and information. This is aimed at helping individuals to decide whether to return voluntarily to their home country.
Choices has its main offices in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. They also have staff in Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Wolverhampton. The programme is funded by the United Kingdom Border Agency and the European Return Fund. However, it should be noted that, as a charity organisation, they operate entirely independently of both of these agencies, as they are mandated to provide confidential, independent and non-directive advice for people seeking assistance through the programme.
For those who make the decision to return to their homeland, they will receive support in the form of assistance with planning the return. This planning would include assistance from the airport to his or her hometown where they intend to live; assisting in making contact with family members; and what the person would like to do when he or she gets there. These persons would also get assistance in applying for travel documents and booking flights; if required, assistance at the airports both in the United Kingdom and in the country that the person is returning to; and financial help with the flight and assistance with temporary help in reintegration. The service will also assist with information on packages of support that may be available in the country that the individual is returning to and assistance for the person with respect to education, employment, training and/or business packages. It should be noted that for those who decide not to return to their homeland, the provider can refer these individuals to other available services.
You should be aware that these providers are supposed to offer independent, confidential and non-directive advice that will assist an individual in making an informed decision. These organisations should not be trying to persuade a person to return or not to return, and should respect whatever decision a person arrives at.
I hope this helps.
John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: email@example.com.