Grenfell families to miss start of inquiry due to visa delays

Overseas relatives of those who died in the fire in the London tower block are yet to be granted a right to attend

epa06752063 The remains of the Grenfell tower in London, Britain, 20 May 2018. At least 71 people died in a fire that broke out at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017. A public inquiry into the disaster chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick will begin on 21 May 2018.  EPA/NEIL HALL

Family members of people who perished in the Grenfell Tower fire that claimed 72 lives in June 2017 have yet to be granted visas to allow them to attend the public inquiry into the inferno, which starts on Monday in London.

Despite relatives given "core participants" status in the inquiry, The Independent newspaper has learnt that one man, Karim Khalloufi, and his mother waited from December until last Friday to hear if their visas had been approved. Mr Khalloufi's sister Khadija died in the blaze.

As their visas will not be ready until Wednesday, Mr Khalloufi and his mother Zohra Rabbae will miss the first three days of the inquiry. Other families are in the country already on visas but over which there is uncertainty as to whether they will berenewed by the Home Office.

Mr Khalloufi has spent more than £1,000 (Dh$4,934) to get the two visas. He told The Independent: "I'm happy that I can attend at least some of the inquiry. Let's hope that they don't delay it anymore. I'm angry it took so long; there was no reason for this delay. We have been suffering, waiting; they have been confusing us.

“I don’t even think my mum will come now. After all this, she is afraid to go back to Britain. She’s afraid there will be more issues.”

More than 500 individuals and organisations have been assigned core participant status – most of these being the bereaved and survivors of the fire. The inquiry aims to investigate the cause and to allow relatives and friends to pay their respects to the dead.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said: “It is simply not right that bereaved relatives who are core participants have not been granted visas for the inquiry. It would be easy for the home secretary to grant visas to a handful of people.

“The Grenfell families had to lobby hard even to get a partial panel, although [British prime minister] Theresa May said she would leave no stone unturned in this inquiry. She also promised victims would not suffer, irrespective of their immigration status, but is now failing the families once more.”