Thank you for calling me to speak, McCabe; it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I congratulate my hon. Friend Meg Hillier on securing this important debate.
Over the last decade, immigration fees have continued to increase to eye-watering amounts, preventing many people from pursuing permanent settlement or even their right to citizenship. Meanwhile, many of those who manage to pay the fees find that they have been pushed into unsustainable amounts of debt. That needs to change urgently. The Government appear to have never considered the socioeconomic or welfare impact of high fees on those who are forced to pay them, but that impact is often severe.
I would like to take this opportunity to share the dilemma faced by families in my constituency. My constituent Ajid has worked hard to support his two children but has been forced into unsustainable credit card debt after having to pay over £9,000 in UK visa renewal fees. He has a right to work and live in this country but the Government have pushed him to the brink of destitution simply because he attempted to exercise that right. My constituent Patricia is a single mother with three children and is in thousands of pounds-worth of debt, because of the cost of application fees and paying a solicitor to help her to navigate the complicated and demeaning fee waiver application process. Incidentally, her fee waiver application was ultimately unsuccessful.
I hope that the Minister will take my constituents’ experiences into consideration and will agree with me that immigration fees that push those who pay them into destitution are no longer sustainable, and that there is an urgent need to review them. I ask him not to say that the offer of a discretionary fee waiver is the answer, because my constituent was unsuccessful. The process is complicated and requires expensive legal assistance. I hope that the Minister will listen to everything that is said today and review the system. As it stands it is pushing many of our constituents into destitution.