Hostile environment data-sharing
People should be able to access essential public services – like sending their children to school, seeking medical care and reporting crime – without fear of immigration enforcement. Sign the #CareDontShare Firewall Pledge today
Under the racist hostile environment, the Government has set up a series of data-sharing deals allowing immigration enforcement teams access to personal information we share with public services.
These arrangements mean Immigration Enforcement can get its hands on the personal data of up to 1,500 schoolchildren every month.
It can also request patient details from the NHS to track people down for deportation.
And the police routinely pass details of victims and witnesses of crime to the Home Office.
In 2019 Liberty also exposed Government plans for local authorities and homelessness charities to share the personal information of migrant rough sleepers with the Home Office so they can be deported. After the scheme was scrapped, Liberty Investigates – our investigative journalism unit – revealed it had been revived in 2021.
And we uncovered the existence of a massive secret database of migrants – the equivalent of a digital ID system, keeping tabs on and denying services to migrant communities.
WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
Everyone should be able to access vital public services without fear they may be detained or deported. But the Government has turned public servants into border guards against their will and often without their knowledge.
If you’re a doctor, teacher or police officer, you’re primary role is to help, educate and protect. But the hostile environment undermines this core purpose while placing immigration control ahead of other crucial concerns like public health.
And for people who are undocumented, these cruel policies affect every aspect of life. Many parents keep their children away from school and people avoid health centres and hospitals, even when they are gravely ill. Many people are also reluctant to report any crime, no matter how serious in nature.
This environment pushes people towards a life of destitution and exploitation. This environment isn’t just hostile, it’s inhumane.
This environment pushes people towards a life of destitution and exploitation. This environment is not hostile, it’s inhumane.
WHAT IS LIBERTY DOING ABOUT IT?
We’re calling on Government departments and public services to commit to a data ‘firewall’ – a cast-iron promise that personal information collected by trusted services will not be shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement.
And we’ve teamed with a host of other organisations to fight against the data-sharing deals we’ve managed to uncover so far. Together we are dismantling the hostile environment.
Alongside the Migrants’ Rights Network, we took legal action against the Home Office, Department for Health and Social Care and NHS Digital for their data-sharing deal allowing Immigration Enforcement access to patient information.
In November 2018, in response to our case and campaigning by Doctors of the World, National AIDS Trust and others, NHS Digital pulled out of the arrangement.
We’ve also teamed up with Against Borders for Children (ABC) to end data-sharing in education.
We took legal action against the Department for Education (DfE) which was asking schools to collect children’s nationality and country of birth data as part of the school census. The data served no educational purpose, and its collection was akin to creating a list of foreign children.
Once Liberty and ABC started the case, the DfE u-turned and stopped asking for this sensitive information in the census.
Our case has also led the data watchdog to criticise the DfE for passing children’s addresses to the Home Office.
Alongside Southall Black Sisters, we launched the first ever super-complaint legal action over police forces not having policies in place for undocumented victims and witnesses of crime and routinely passing their details to the Home Office as a result.
In December 2020 the police inspectorate backed our call for forces to stop sharing details of domestic abuse survivors with immigration enforcement.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said “the UK aspires to be a democracy where the justice system does not punish victims, but recognises and protects them. We agree with Liberty and Southall Black Sisters that harm is currently being caused to the public interest.”
It also called for an investigation into a firewall for all migrant victims of crime.
The report is an important step forward, but the fight goes on to end this data-sharing, and ultimately scrap the racist hostile environment.
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