Hostile environment

Sajid Javid can’t just change Home Office language – he must challenge a rotten culture

Posted by Sam Grant on 02 May 2018

Sajid Javid is going to have to do more than change the language of the Home Office if he is to reverse the effects of the department’s hostile environment policies.

New Home Secretary Sajid Javid says he does not like the word ‘hostile’.

He called the phrase incorrect, unhelpful and not representative of “our values as a country”.

But he’s going to have to do more than change the language of the Home Office if he is to reverse the effects of the department’s hostile environment policies.

Until these toxic policies are scrapped, they will continue to make border guards of us all, facilitating discrimination against BAME citizens and settled migrants, and pushing undocumented people further into exploitation and destitution.

And no number of resignations will change it.

Changing a rotten culture

The hostile environment is made up a sprawling web of immigration controls which have invaded every aspect of life in the UK.

Successive governments obsessed with deportations no matter the human cost have caused parents to fear sending their children to school and people who are sick to avoid medical care.

Migrant families who have fallen on hard times dare not ask for support from social services because their children may be taken away from them. British citizens who have been here for more than 40 years have been told they are no longer welcome.

And privacy rights for all of us are being undermined as the Home Office is increasingly allowed to hoover up data from trusted services like schools and hospitals, and hand it to immigration enforcement officers.

The hostile environment is firmly embedded at the Home Office – it has been official policy since 2012. Only last week Amber Rudd said the culture must change.

This should now be Sajid Javid’s top priority. Fortunately, there’s plenty of evidence out there to help him get to grips with his new brief.

Reading list

As a start he could have a flick through Liberty’s guide to the hostile environment.

After that he should brush up on the damage that the dangerous and discriminatory immigration control exemption in the Data Protection Bill will cause – and then remove it before it can become law.

The new Home Secretary will also do well to read up on black and minority ethnic drivers being disproportionately targeted by police for road traffic stops.

He can pore over Liberty’s and StopWatch’s Driving While Black report to get to grips with that.


We’re sure Sajid Javid will have a lot of invitations in his inbox.

Two that we recommend he accepts are from the women on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre  – and then one from the Joint Committee on Human Rights to discuss how he plans to protect the rights of those locked up in immigration detention without release dates.

It is telling that – as far as we know – no serving Home Secretary has ever visited a detention centre.

We’d place our latest submission on immigration detention on his ministerial reading list before he goes before the Committee.

A pivotal time

The culture at the Home Office is toxic.

If Sajid Javid’s commitment to move away from the hostile environment of his predecessors is to go deeper than tweaking soundbites, he must challenge it head-on.

The political and public appetite is there. He must seize this opportunity.

There’s never been a more pivotal time to show what “our values as a country” are, rebuild trust in the immigration system and protect the human rights of all.

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