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I think that it is universally accepted that the British people want properly controlled immigration. Their objection is to unfair and uncontrolled immigration. This Bill has been dressed up as a powerful response to that demand for effective immigration control, but it is in fact the opposite; it is a sign that the Home Office has given up on doing its job.
Instead of fixing that which is broken—the ports of entry that passengers go through without seeing an immigration officer; the practice, when police officers intercept people who have been smuggled in lorries, of sending them on their way and asking them kindly to present themselves at the Home Office in Croydon; and even appeals where, having refused an application, the
Home Office fails to send a representative to defend the decision—the Home Office has instead allowed terrible delays in listing appeals, resulting in people who have no valid claim to remain here staying longer and putting down roots so that they become more difficult to remove.
The Home Office has rejected calls to extend the role and remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority so that practical action can be taken to prevent labour exploitation in sectors where we know it exists, such as the hotel trade and construction. Instead, it is delegating the problem to us—to ordinary people and not just employers, who rightly should check the immigration status of people who apply to work for them, in order to protect themselves and their customers. Those employers regularly complain to me that the information on the advice line is at best confusing, and at worst wrong.
We are told that there will be an advice line for some of the new groups who will have to check someone’s immigration status. Banks already have some experience, but landlords will now be expected to refer to an advice line in order to spy on the immigration status of their tenants. In effect, the Bill is setting us all up as snoopers on other people’s immigration status. We know that that is ineffective. Of 75,000 allegations to the Home Office in 2013, there were 4,000 arrests and only 1,000 removals. Even privatised Capita, when given 120,000 records of overstayers, managed to persuade only 1,000 to leave.
I have been advising people about immigration status for over 35 years, but I still need to check with up-to-date experts about what some of my constituents’ entitlements are. The Home Office is not providing the tools that would allow citizens to be sure of the status of someone who might seek services from them. The result is unsurprising, and it is confirmed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants report on west midlands landlords: people will just stop taking the risk.
Britain, having been a tolerant and welcoming society in which iconic British successes have often been created by refugees and migrants—businesses such as Marks & Spencer and inventions such as the Mini, which was designed here by an Italian—will become a place where people with foreign names and accents face a kind of pass law system in which, in order to play a full part in society, they have to keep proving their status and the fact that they have rights. The MPs who opposed the national ID card system did so on the basis that it was an infringement of civil liberties. The consequence of failing to introduce such a system is that all of us will have to make these checks, and minorities will bear the brunt of infringements of their civil liberties.