Take action on the Immigration Bill now: 4 crucial asks for your MP

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 19 April 2016

Over the past eight years there have been seven immigration bills and – since she became Home Secretary – Theresa May has made 45,000 changes to the immigration rules. 

A frenzy of activity on issues of immigration and asylum has seen appeal rights removed, legal aid denied, asylum support slashed, families torn apart by minimum income thresholds and private landlords tasked with immigration enforcement.

But in the face of a tide of law and policy which has fuelled discrimination and eroded rights, there are four changes you can ask your MP to make which will provide the basics of protection and dignity to some of those in the greatest need.

Peers have already taken a stand, handing the Government multiple defeats in the Lords. Now it is down to our elected representatives. When the Immigration Bill returns to the House of Commons, we need MPs to maintain the progress made in the Lords and:

1. Vote to allow asylum seekers to work if the Home Office fails to determine their claims in 6 months.

Currently, only those waiting 12 months can access employment and they are limited to work on the restrictive Shortage Occupation List.

Between October and December last year, some 3,600 asylum seekers were left without a decision after the Home Office target time of six months. The vast majority of these people were forced to live on paltry and diminishing Government handouts amounting to roughly £5 a day.

UK law stops asylum seekers from contributing to the economy and leaves them to lose their skills and suffer poverty. Lifting the ban would reverse this cruel and pointless policy and afford some basic respect and dignity to those seeking sanctuary in this country.

2. Vote to help Overseas Domestic Workers escape situations of exploitation and abuse by providing a genuine right to change employer.

Overseas domestic workers are uniquely vulnerable, frequently coming from backgrounds of extreme poverty and dependent on their employer for both accommodation and wages.

The tied visa system – introduced in the UK in April 2012 - leaves them even more vulnerable, making them dependent on their employer for their immigration status and ability to lawfully remain in the UK.  

James Ewins QC, the expert commissioned by the Government to look into the situation of vulnerable domestic workers, found that:

the existence of a tie to a specific employer and the absence of a universal right to change employer and apply for extensions of the visa are incompatible with the reasonable protection of overseas domestic workers while in the UK.”

The Government has implemented impractical and conditional alternatives, but failed to follow the expert advice and provide an accessible and universal right for ODWs to change employer.

3. Vote for an absolute ban on the incarceration of pregnant women in immigration detention centres.  

Stephen Shaw – the expert commissioned by the Government to review the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons - concluded that the scandal of detaining pregnant woman must end.

His conclusions were powerfully evidenced by the Royal College of Midwives which has high-lighted the vulnerability of pregnant women and the serious difficulties faced by healthcare professionals in delivering life-saving treatment and care in detention.

The Government has offered a concession, but seeks to retain the ability to detain pregnant women for up to a week, compromising the health and safety of mothers and their unborn children.

4. Vote to offer sanctuary to 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children in Europe.

Whilst the Government has taken some steps to ease the situation for refugees in conflict regions, it simply cannot ignore the plight of children on its doorstep, particularly vulnerable to abuse, and in desperate need of our help. The children concerned have not only suffered the trauma of flight from conflict and forced separation from family – they face fresh horrors every day within Europe’s borders, including a well-documented risk of human trafficking.

Recent research on life in the Calais Jungle reveals worrying reports of police violence, insanitary conditions and widespread feelings of insecurity amongst the some 650 children residing in the camp.

The UK cannot continue to rely on geographical accident to avoid its responsibilities towards children in need.

Please email your MP today and urge them to support these vital changes.

Campaign reference: 

Immigration Act 2016

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson

Policy and Advocacy Manager