The Immigration Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, has profound implications for ‘race’ and community relations beyond Third Sector organisations dealing specifically with asylum and immigration. The likely impact of the Bill would increase discrimination against British citizens from visible minorities too.
If passed in its’ current form, the Bill would double the penalty for employing an irregular migrant from £10,000 – £20,000 fine (per person). This applies to the Third Sector as well as every other employer. The Bill would abolish the ‘first warning’ to employers, so a fine would automatically apply and there would be a restricted ability to challenge a penalty.
Although employment checks are already law, the impact of the changes could mean employers are even more likely to discriminate against BME applicants on grounds they “look like” immigrants, or are visible minorities.
The Immigration Bill also aims to force landlords to carry out immigration checks on would-be tenants, turning landlords into quasi-immigration officers. Landlords could become confused about the numerous immigration and asylum statuses in a complex area of law and consequently reject an individual who is entitled to work due to confusion.
This measure also has the possibility of causing discrimination against British citizens as well as immigrants because some private landlords may not want to ‘take a risk’ with a possible tenant and turn would-be tenants away based on their appearance, even though they may have a right to that tenancy. This increases the risk of homelessness, and consequently the inability to secure work and contribute to Britain’s economy.
The Bill also seeks to introduce a ‘health levy’ for all non-EEA immigrants who are subject to immigration control before they can access NHS care. The health charge is expected to be £200 per year (£150 a year for students).
There is the possibility of this measure leading to an increase in communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, which could affect British citizens as well as immigrants and asylum seekers. It is also likely to deter migrants from seeking healthcare, such as HIV prevention, including for services they are entitled to.
There is already evidence that GPs are already turning away immigrants even though GPs are not covered by the Bill. Take-up of pre-natal care, which is already lower for foreign-born pregnant women, could reduce further and therefore increase rates of post and neonatal deaths. Many organisations believe there is not significant evidence of ‘health tourism’ to justify the health levy.
The Bill also reduces the grounds for appeal against an immigration or asylum decision from 17 to just four. The Bill seeks to deny an independent review of a Home Office decision on grounds of a right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Reduction of appeal rights centre on circumstances when a deportation order has been served. A significant part of this is clauses that water down, specifically the right to family life. In other words, appeals that established family ties to the UK and the British nationality of children of asylum seekers will be discounted.
There are no measures in the Bill to improve initial decision-making, which are notoriously bad as evidenced by the fact that over 30% of Home Office decisions overturned on appeal. Cuts to Legal Aid will compound the position of ‘failed’ asylum seekers, who will have reduced rights to appeal against a removals notice.
The proposed law will be debated in the House of Lords this month (February), so there is an urgent need to lobby peers.
JUST West Yorkshire is a member of the CORE network of race equality organisations and we will be lobbying peers over the coming weeks. We are urging race equality organisation to join us in challenging this Bill. If you are interested in taking part please contact lester@voice4change-england.