The Human Rights charity Liberty has branded the new Immigration Bill part of the “hostile environment“.

Liberty’s Gracie Bradley said: “It’s impossible to have a hostile environment which doesn’t result in human rights abuses – and expanding it is nothing to be proud of. The Government could use this Bill as an opportunity for redemption, to learn the lessons of the pandemic, and to ensure there’s no repeat of Windrush. But it will only achieve that by ending the hostile environment and redesigning the immigration system so that humanity, dignity and respect sits at its core.”

The Government has set out proposals for a 6-month grace period for EU nationals which extends the programme for settled status until June 2021. During this period, EU nationals who have not been granted settled status will be subject to the current “hostile environment” provisions which exist for non-EU nationals.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants say that the responsibility for immigration enforcement falls on businesses, public services and ordinary citizens and its structure encourages the targeting of ethnic minorities and those who look or sound ‘foreign’. Those without documentation are denied access to housing, healthcare, employment benefits and bank accounts. Given that most people in the UK without documents have a legal right to be here, it inevitably causes huge amounts of harm to people.

The hostile environment means that employers, landlords, NHS staff and other public servants have to check your immigration status before offering you a job, housing, healthcare or other support.

By including the NHS this leads to a public health risk as some people will be afraid to access healthcare. Clearly, this is critical during a pandemic.

As Parliament is debating these new immigration laws now, Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners and written to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP supporting the call for change:

“I am writing as your constituent to ask you to use the Immigration Bill to end the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.

The hostile environment has embedded border controls in the heart of our communities and is destroying lives. Undocumented people in the UK can’t find a place to live, access employment, open a bank account, get a driving licence or receive benefits – forcing them into destitution and exploitation.

Data-sharing deals between essential services and the Home Office mean that people are afraid to send their children to school, or even get medical care when ill or report a crime because they may end up detained or deported.

The coronavirus crisis has further exposed the inhumanity of these policies. Having people in our country who are too afraid to seek medical help during a pandemic is a disgrace.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister himself has expressed shock at rules which stop many migrants from accessing basic public support.

After Brexit, three million more people will suddenly fall within the hostile environment and might too be locked up in immigration detention centres or removed from the country.

The Immigration Bill is an opportunity to prove we have learned the lessons of the Windrush Scandal. Please use it to end the hostile environment and redesign the immigration system with humanity, dignity and respect at its core.”

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