JUST West Yorkshire’s Response to the Home Office’s Immigration Bill Consultation November 2013

JUST West Yorkshire is a Bradford-based organization that promotes racial justice, civil liberties and human rights across Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield. 

We are writing to express our strong opposition to the Immigration Bill that we believe is being rushed through Parliament without a full and fair consideration of its implications. It is our view that the proposed legislation is ill considered, racist and not backed up by robust factual data. We believe that the legislation is politically motivated, aimed at appealing to the Far Right wing of the Conservative Party and a response to UKIP’s electoral threat to the Tories. The measure is an electoral gimmick aimed at winning the populist vote and presenting the Conservatives as a party that is ‘tough’ on immigration.

JUST believes that rather like the government’s PREVENT and CONTEST policies this proposal will have the same effect of promoting racial profiling of Black and minority ethnic people as the presumption will be to treat all people of colour as suspect communities. More disturbingly the proposed legislation will turn the person-in-the street on extensions of the immigration of arm of the State.

While the government may make short-term electoral gains as a result of this racist policy, in the long-run we believe these measures are counter-productive as they will have not only have the effect of undermining the government’s own policy of community cohesion but worse, drive a further wedge between communities.

JUST believes that the proposed legislation will create a policy context based on categorizing people on the basis of crude stereotypes. For example those people deemed not to share characteristics that are assumed to be British – accent, dress and way of life – are likely to be targeted as the ‘Immigrant Other’ and therefore have their rights and entitlements undermined.

Regardless of citizenship status we believe that the proposed legislation also infringes the human rights framework as it denies people basic and fundamental rights not on the basis of their immigration status but their humanity. For instance by forcing health workers to deny fundamental rights such as access to health care is short-sighted as it not only has implications for public health but also the right to life. It is likely that this legislation will result in immigrants – without the financial means to pay to meet their health care needs – to resist presenting themselves at hospitals or local surgeries with all the attendant adverse health implications for the individual and the community at large. Recent data has also highlighted that there is no cost-benefit to withholding health care, as the cost of treating an outspread of communicable diseases can be a disproportionate drain on the public purse.

The Bill’s proposal to turn landlords into immigration vetting agents is likely to increase homelessness, destitution and exacerbate housing density in areas that are already suffering from the impact of high-density multiple-occupancy. The areas are most likely to be impacted by this legislation are those that already have overcrowded housing and struggling public services. The inability of migrants to access affordable housing in these neighborhoods will tear at the social fabric of the community and increase the pressure on local services.

The proposed legislation is likely to mean that residents too will be subject to vetting of their immigration status as a pre-condition for accessing services. The access to services on the basis of a crude binary of residential and non-residential status is dangerous as it risks invisibilising the complexity around the wide variety of legal statuses and rights that migrants are entitled to. 

JUST believes that the proposed legislation will increase racial profiling that will take the UK back to the dark days of ‘No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish.’ The rise of movements like the Golden Dawn in Greece and the resurgence of the Far Right in Europe should serve as a cautionary note to the Coalition government of the likely implications of creating a legislative imperative that feeds into the Far Right agenda.

Across West Yorkshire there has been a significant decrease in support available for migrants as a result of drastic cuts to the legal aid budget. This is already proving to have an adverse impact on the individual’s ability to access legal advice that is independent, fair and accessible. The proposed measures are going to increase the vulnerability of migrants; deny them the right to due process; and a fair consideration of their circumstances. We consider that these measures are deliberately calculated to speed the process to such a degree that applicants are removed before the Courts can consider the merits of each individual case based on the presentation of the full facts.  

The other proposed measure in relation to compelling bank staff to check immigration status is short-sighted as it is likely to increase the grip of the ‘black’ economy if migrants do not have access to banking facilities. The government has already recognized the impact of payday loan companies on the vulnerable who do not have access to banking facilities; we are likely to see the development of a ‘parallel’ system run by unscrupulous people and preying on the vulnerability of migrants with limited financial resources.

 We are strongly opposed to the imposition of a £3000 fine as it penalizes the service provider for not acting as the extension of the UKBA’s ‘surveillance’ arm. It also places a requirement on them to racially profile individual/s accessing their service. In fields such as health it asks of doctors and nurses to foreground UKBA requirements over their own Hippocratic oath to provide services based on need.

The proposed legislation also validates the use of the term ‘illegal’ and undermines a human being’s inalienable right to safety, security, health and a home.

We call on the Public Bill Committee to stop this immigration Bill from progressing as a matter of urgency.