Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 12th February 2019.

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Gracie Bradley:

The impact of the hostile environment has really been laid bare by the Windrush scandal, and I would like to set Liberty’s comments in that context. We have seen people who had a right to be here made destitute, losing their livelihoods, and potentially being unable to come back into the country that they have called their home for decades. Some people have died as a result of the stress.

That is the impact of the Windrush scandal, but of course the effects of the hostile environment are not limited to Windrush citizens; it reverberates among undocumented people more generally. Those impacts are to do with children being afraid to go to school because of data sharing between the Home Office and the Department for Education, and people, some of whom are supposed to be receiving palliative care, being charged tens of thousands of pounds for medical treatment. We have seen victims and witnesses of serious crime deterred from reporting those crimes to the police. The impact is not just on the fundamental rights of undocumented people; the impact is to warp our public services and turn our teachers and doctors into border guards.

More generally, we see an environment of suspicion towards anybody who seems visibly foreign or who is black or minority ethnic. That discriminatory effect has been evidenced by the research of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants into landlord checks. We see that landlords are less likely to rent to BAME people without a passport as opposed to white people. We have seen incredibly broad and harmful effects of the hostile environment on the rights of undocumented people, people with a right to be here, British citizens and our public services.

Our concern is that the Bill essentially hands Ministers a blank cheque to bring millions more people into that system while doing nothing to remedy the injustices that have been exposed. We recommend that the hostile environment be repealed and that vital safeguards are restored to the immigration system, such as data protection rights and legal aid, and that there is also an end to indefinite immigration detention.