This afternoon I headed to Parliament to give evidence on the Government’s Immigration Bill - some might say that Halloween was an eerily appropriate day to discuss these scary proposals.
Rather than knuckling down and trying to fix a system blighted by inefficiency and error, the Home Office has instead come up with a Bill that would create a nightmarish, bureaucratic system of immigration control in the community.
Private landlords, bank workers and airline staff would be transformed into border officials – creating reams of extra red tape for small businesses. Members of the clergy aren’t exempt either, with marriage within the Anglican Church set to be brought within the realms of immigration control for the first time.
Inexplicably it seems the Home Office’s answer to existing delays and incompetence is a regime of even greater dysfunction and complexity. Rather than getting their own house in order, Ministers have sought to shirk their responsibilities by passing the buck to untrained service providers.
Meanwhile, despite figures exposing departmental decision-making in immigration cases as woefully poor, the Bill tries to make such sub-standard decisions more difficult to challenge via proposals for scrapping appeal rights and curbing the discretion of judges.
The Government’s offensive “racist van” may now be off the road but this nasty Immigration Bill fell out the back. Where sensitive immigration checks are farmed out to private landlords and others with no training or experience, it’s obvious who’ll be singled out – making this Bill a race relations fright-fest waiting to happen.
Today traditionally marks the start of Hallowmas – a time to remember the dead. Let’s hope that, come next Halloween, we’re remembering the departed Immigration Bill – and that it doesn’t come back to haunt us.