Five reasons to oppose the Immigration Bill

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 13 October 2015

Today MPs will debate the Government’s new Immigration Bill in Parliament. Just a week after the Home Secretary told the Conservative Party Conference that immigration was damaging social cohesion, the proposed solution risks destroying it altogether. 

Here are five reasons to oppose this deeply divisive Bill:

  1. It will damage race relations 

    The “right to rent” scheme places obligations on landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. The scheme was piloted in the West Midlands for six months from December 2014, and the Government now intends to roll it out nationally despite failing to publish its evaluation. This Bill also introduces draconian amendments to the scheme to include criminal sanctions and summary eviction.

    However, an independent evaluation by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) shows clear evidence of discrimination – 42 per cent of landlords said the scheme had made them less likely to consider somebody who doesn't have a British passport; and 27 per cent were reluctant to engage with those with foreign accents or names. Tellingly, more than three quarters were not in favour of its introduction nationally.

    The Bill also grants a raft of new police-like enforcement powers to Immigration Officers, the most eye-catching relating to a new offence of “driving whilst illegal”. 

    The current police power to stop vehicles without reason already gives rise to grave concerns – a Home Secretary Commissioned review showed they were being used disproportionately to stop black and ethnic minority drivers. These new powers will encourage routine traffic stop operations, affecting all drivers, but in particular those from minority ethnic groups – compounding the reality and perception of discrimination.

  2. It won’t work
    The evidence shows that current immigration offences are not even being enforced - the creation of unnecessary additional offences is simply an attempt to distract from that fact. The Immigration Bill is simple posturing and will do nothing to facilitate the removal of illegal migrants.
  3. It’s dangerous
    Frighteningly, the Bill even extends Immigration Officer powers beyond UK soil, enabling them – along with police and armed forces – to stop, board, divert and detain ships when they have reasonable grounds to suspect they are involved in aiding unlawful immigration. Far from deterring asylum-seekers, these powers – if granted – may encourage the most desperate to take further risks to avoid detection, possibly resulting in serious harm or even death. 
  4. It’s inhumane 

    At the heart of the Bill is a raft of measures aimed at making life in Britain unbearable for failed asylum-seekers – and to cement the Government’s message that the streets “are not paved with gold”. Powers to seize earnings, criminalise working, freeze and close bank accounts and diminish asylum support will, the Government insists, encourage illegal immigrants to leave and deter others from arriving.

    However, the evidence repeatedly shows that enforced destitution simply does not work as a method of immigration control. In fact, these proposals are likely to leave many families with small children vulnerable to the most extreme impoverishment.

  5. More powers, less scrutiny
    With powers over immigration bail shifting from the judiciary to the Home Office, and the extension of a ‘remove first, appeal later’ strategy – meaning notoriously poor decisions are likely to go unchallenged– the Executive is furnishing itself with more and more powers while judicial oversight and scrutiny is dwindling.

And here’s a bonus point for good measure – the Bill does nothing to address the ongoing travesty of unlimited immigration detention purely for administrative convenience. 

This Bill is a chance to end this grave injustice. Liberty is opposed to immigration detention altogether save as a last resort to effect immediate, lawful removal. As a bare minimum level of protection, we will fight for the inclusion of a 28 day time-limit.

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson

Policy and Advocacy Manager