Hackney Migrant Centre

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Registered address
St Mary's New Church Rooms,Spensley Walk
Stoke Newington Church Street,London
N16 9ES


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HMC Hardship fund for destitute migrants

We sadly see many migrants each year who are destitute, unable to access housing, benefits or work. They rely on charities such as HMC to provide them with food, clothes and sometimes shelter.

We aim to try to work our visitors who face this situation both in the longer term and the short term. We aim to provide them with advice and legal representation where possible to try to resolve their immigration situation to enable them to have access to housing and benefits. This can take many months and sometimes years.

In the short-term, we offer one-off cash payments of £20 to individuals to try to help them with immediate travel costs, food etc. We also apply to other organisations for bigger grants to try to help in the longer term. We also try to make sure that our visitors know where they can go to get free food locally, where they can access clothes, healthcare and try to refer them to shelters, emrgency shelters and sometimes social services.

Your donation will go directly into our hardship fund and straight back into the hands of our most needy visitors.

Below is an example of a typical week and how we use our hardship fund:

At a recent drop-in, we gave out four £20 hardship payments to the people introduced below. We also requested one person’s files from the Home Office, as their solicitor had been closed down and they were unsure the status of an application submitted several months ago. We couldn’t give comprehensive immigration advice without first doing this.

One visitor was waiting for an asylum interview and is hoping to receive asylum support once their application has been processed. This is likely to mean that she will be dispersed outside of London, and is also likely to take a number of weeks. We have a specialist advisor to help with asylum support applications, but she had no sustainable means of support in the meantime. We gave her a hardship payment to help cover some of her basic needs, whilst helping her to access legal advice about her asylum claim.

Another visitor’s benefits had been stopped because her documents confirming her status are with the Home Office whilst they process her application for settlement. We helped her with this application in Feb 2016. We have provided letters to explain the situation, but gave her a hardship payment whilst she struggles to prove her status to the Job Centre.

Another visitor is one that we have been supporting for a number of months to find housing, and she has recently been given social services accommodation. She has a young baby. We have put her in touch with a solicitor at Coram, who has been advocating for her to receive subsistence support, as the Local Authority is very reluctant. She uses four busses to take her children to school, on top of daily living expenses. She also has thousands of pounds worth of debt owing to the NHS for her maternity care, and is trying to get Exceptional Case Funding for an immigration application. We gave her a hardship payment to contribute towards her living costs whilst her solicitor works on her case and we liaise with both.

Finally, we gave a hardship payment to a 20-year-old asylum seeker who came to the UK from Afghanistan as a minor. On turning 19, his asylum claim was refused after several appeals and the local authority stopped supporting him. After receiving detailed immigration advice, we have put him in touch with a specialist solicitor who will assess whether he can put in a fresh asylum claim. He is sleeping with friends with no other means of support in the meantime and suffers from severe mental health problems. We are keeping in close contact with him.

More people are being led into destitution. We continue to seek immediate and long-term solutions, and support others who are lobbying for policy change.


A growing trend since receiving our last grant is the increase in those presenting as destitute. Because of their immigration statuses, they can’t work or access services. Eviction is often imminent. Our Destitution Coordinator, who supports homeless families in applying for housing and subsistence, has seen a sharp rise to over four new individuals/families weekly. At the same time, we’ve found our councils becoming more and more reluctant to take responsibility for families under the 1989 Children’s Act.

Another issue causing increasing financial hardship for our visitors is access to healthcare. We are finding that many of our visitors are liable to be charged for secondary healthcare and incur debts receiving necessary treatment (such as maternity care). These debts can present legal barriers to regularising their immigration status. Many migrants are also struggling to pay the health surcharge that they are now obliged to pay before making immigration applications.

As legal aid is now only given in a handful of cases, the only option for some of our visitors is to apply for Exceptional Case Funding. Our in-house solicitor and caseworker are overwhelmed by the numbers of these applications pending and have a waiting list. We also make referrals to two specialist projects, but they are frequently at full capacity. With no means to regularise their status or work or claim benefits until they do, people are led into a spiral of destitution.

We are seeing high numbers of people at the drop-in generally; we have to turn people away at the door each week so we can provide the best service possible to the 40 – 45 people we can accommodate. This financial year, we have had to turn away over 150 people. We signpost them to other services, but many return in subsequent weeks.


New policies this year have made it increasingly difficult to request files from the Home Office. The Home Office now requires signed ID before processing the requests, which is often difficult or impossible for our visitors to obtain. Legal challenges to this policy are ongoing, and in the meantime one of our solicitors is certifying passport photos as a substitute. It is possible that the Home Office will accept pictures taken and printed by ourselves, but safest to rely on official passport photos. So far, visitors have paid for these photos themselves, but this is something that we may have to consider also funding. This new policy has led to us investing more time administering, monitoring and chasing up these SARs.

Each grant given provides relief for people in desperate situations, giving them the opportunity to take steps towards longer term solutions.

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