Victor Erouhwo, 41, has been fighting to remain in Britain after his visa expired and he was unable to afford the costs of applying for an extension.
Having moved to Britain from Nigeria in 2007 to pursue studies, Mr Erouhwo eventually gained a Limited Leave to Remain Visa on a 10-year route to indefinite leave to remain.
However, he was unable to afford the fee of more than £4,000 for his visa extension and became classed as an “overstayer” by the government in January 2022.
Mr Erouhwo’s immigration status caused him to lose his job as a maintenance worker for TFL the same month, where he earned less than the national average salary. With no income, the father-of-two was unable to afford his rent and consequently became homeless.
“I’m shackled and can’t do anything for myself,” Victor told The Independent. “I’ve never been homeless before, I’ve never been in this situation. I am helpless and destitute.
“There are misconceptions about being homeless; people think we put ourselves in this situation. But that’s not the case when it comes to me.
“If the government would allow me to work then I would be grateful. All I want is an opportunity to help myself but I can’t.”
For years, campaigning groups have been lobbying against “eye-wateringly” expensive visa application prices, with charities like Praxis accusing ministers of “treating migrants like cash cows”.
Mr Erouhwo, who says he’s been relying on the generosity of strangers to buy biscuits and spending time in libraries for warmth, continued: “I’ve been living and working in the UK, paying my taxes for years.
“Sometimes I think I’d prefer if I died; things would be easier because then there would be no trouble because there’d be no more me. It’s really hard when there’s no way out of this situation right now.”
Charities have expressed an interest in helping Mr Erouhwo, however they’re unable to assist due to his Home Office application being unresolved as the government is clamping down on migration.
Though visa fee waivers are available for people who apply to the Home Office for assistance, Mr Erouhwo has yet to receive a response following a waiver application he initially lodged in April.
Naga Kandiah, public law solicitor from MTC Solicitors which is now representing Mr Erouhwo on a pro-bono basis, said: “There are long delays by the Home Office for visa extension applications, during this time, applicants are left in limbo and unable to earn money, in turn, losing their homes and forcing employers to terminate their jobs due to their immigration status.
“Now due to the incredibly cruel new policies which are being implemented by the government, Mr Erouhwo faces destitution and his life is at stake, he is unable to access housing or even sleep in the streets.
“Homeless charities have been unable to help our client due to his immigration status and the government has provided no support for Mr Erouhwo in this instance.”
Councillor Promise Knight, Brent council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Homelessness & Renters’ Security, said: “We have complete sympathy for his situation as no one deserves to be sleeping rough on the streets.
“Brent is prevented from helping people like Mr Erouhwo to find a more permanent home because of the rules the Home Office puts in place around immigration.
“However, despite this, we have done everything in our power to help Mr Erouhwo. Our housing outreach team is working with Mr Erouhwo’s solicitor to help with his visa application and we hope his situation with the Home Office is worked out soon.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Fee waivers are carefully considered on their individual merits. It is longstanding government policy that we do not routinely comment on individual cases.”