Hostile new environmental policies show lessons of Windrush ‘not learned’ | Immigration and asylum

The Home Office’s plans to relaunch “completely discredited” hostile environmental policies show the government has failed to learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal, immigration experts have said.

A working group to crack down on illegal immigration is being set up, the Interior Ministry announced on Sunday. As well as blocking access to banking services for people without immigration status, he intends to find new ways to check the immigration status of individuals when using schools or the NHS.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick is leading an interdepartmental group to limit many services to people without status. A tightening of access to rental housing, bank accounts, health care, education, driver’s licenses and public funds will all be considered.

Jacqueline McKenzie, who has represented many of the original Windrush victims and is a partner at law firm Leigh Day, said: ‘The hostile environment never really went away but, for outward appearances, the language has been changed. But it is nevertheless heartbreaking to hear of a formal resumption of ideas.

She added: “Given that the Windrush scandal is far from resolved, now is not the time for the government to reinstate the very systems and policies that have been completely discredited.”

Jenrick said: “Illegal work causes incalculable harm to communities, deceiving honest workers from employment, endangering the vulnerable and defrauding public funds. Our immigration enforcement teams strive to bring to justice those who violate our laws. Our priority is to crack down on this crime and empower law enforcement to deport illegal migrants.

However, 21 unions have also accused the government of allowing greater exploitation of migrant workers and undocumented migrants by reverting to hostile environmental policies.

Unison, the UK’s largest union, and the PCS union, the largest public sector union, are among those who have written to the government saying its policies, along with its temporary visa regimes, will expose workers migrants at increased risk of abuse.

Commenting on the latest rhetoric, McKenzie said: “Once again a Home Secretary wants to place non-state actors in a position of spying and handing over information they hold confidential. In arguing that there is a need to control illegal work, the government peddles the idea that migrants are stealing jobs from Britons, but has provided no evidence or data to support their claim.

The power to suspend bank accounts was cut following the Windrush scandal. A government watchdog found in 2017 that one in 10 people refused a bank account because of a failed immigration check had been wrongly denied access.

The decision to reintroduce checks was signaled by Rishi Sunak last month, when he pledged to reduce the backlog of asylum applications.

Daniel Sohege, director of human rights group Stand For All, said: “These measures only deprive people of their safety and lead to pushing more of them into precarious positions, which can leave them vulnerable. to become undocumented and even exploited. When you have an error rate as high as you saw the last time these kinds of measures were tried, the inevitable result is to disenfranchise innocent people.

Sohege said the latest announcement was an attempt to deflect serious issues facing the country, such as the cost of living crisis and NHS challenges.

“It’s a desperate decision to try to avoid dealing with really important issues, while trying to look like you’re taking some form of action,” he said. “The irony being that immigration is key to solving the very problems, such as staff shortages, that the government is using this renewed hostile environment to avoid talking about.”

Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, said: ‘Every time the Tories step up the rhetoric, they end up making it worse. They breached our asylum system – as shown by their failure to prevent migrant children from being kidnapped from hotels by criminal gangs, with 79 of them still missing in a only hotel in Sussex. Their chaos fuels crime and exploitation. We know from the Windrush scandal that they cannot be trusted to put in place proper safeguards. They are also failing to crack down on employers who exploit migrant workers, having failed to put in place the single law enforcement authority they promised in their 2019 manifesto – that Labor and unions demanded.

Rob McNeil, Deputy Director of the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, said: “Many of the original ‘hostile environment’ policies, introduced by Theresa May a decade ago, are still in place – sanctions against landlords who rent to irregular migrants and employers who hire workers without justification of their legal status, for example.There is also little evidence that many of the punitive measures actually discourage irregular migration or force irregular migrants to leave. the United Kingdom.

“Analysis by the Government’s Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration has found evidence that some of these policies have contributed to discrimination against many migrants and minority communities in the UK quite legally. One of the results of this was the Windrush scandal.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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