Police chiefs have said they are “not interested” in pursuing former residents of the burnt out Grenfell Tower block who should not have been in the country or were illegally or sub-letting their flats, because “That’s not what we are here for.”
Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Craid Mackie told the London Assembly: “We are not interested in immigration and subletting issues,” adding, “That’s not what we are here for.”
Mackie hopes residents who were breaking the law might be able to help build a better picture of who was in the building when it caught fire, and wants to encourage them to come forward without fear of prosecution.
“Please, if you were there, just tell us,” he pleaded.
Landlords and tenants illegally sub-letting properties in Grenfell Tower were already told they would face no punishment on July 2nd, with the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announcing official guidance from the Director of Public Prosecutions “not to prosecute tenants at Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk for unlawful subletting”.
“Anecdotal evidence from the community suggests that some of the tenants in the tower block may have been unlawfully sub-letting their properties,” the guidance suggests.
“This may mean people are reluctant to come forward with valuable information that would help to identify anyone still missing. … The Director of Public Prosecutions, in consultation with the Attorney General, has now issued guidance to prosecutors not to bring charges for this offence, given the public interest must be in being able to identify the victims of the fire. ”
With respect to illegal migrants, Prime Minister Theresa May said that the Government would “not use this tragic incident as a reason to carry out immigration checks on those involved or on those providing vital information to identify victims or those assisting with the criminal investigation” in June.
“We will make sure that all victims, irrespective of their immigration status, will be able to access the services they need, including healthcare and accommodation,” she added.
The Government went further in July, saying that “individuals directly affected by the Grenfell Tower fire who contact the Home Office via a specified process will be given a period of [one year] to remain in the UK,” with “full access” to welfare and benefits and the opportunity to apply for permanent residency later.
Senior figures in the opposition Labour Party, including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and London mayor Sadiq Khan have said this does not go far enough, however, and have called for all illegal migrants affected by the fire to be given “full amnesty“.