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UK’s ‘hostile environment’ asylum seeker policy slammed

18 January 20180 comments

The British Government has been criticised by a parliamentary committee over its hostile approach and policy settings towards asylum seekers.

The influential cross-party Home Affairs committee’s report as slammed the UK Home Office’s “hostile environment” measures, which include denying access to rented accommodation, revoking driving licences and closing the bank accounts of those listed as illegal immigrants.

The committee says recent high-profile reports of the Home Office threatening to deport people based on inaccurate and untested information and before an independent appeal process risk undermining the credibility of the whole immigration system.

The report cites a 10 per cent error rate in the Home Office’s list of ‘disqualified people’.

It says the government needs to end its reliance on its error-hit “hostile environment” policy towards illegal migrants because it is not only deeply distressing to those involved but also undermines the credibility of immigration enforcement.

The committee says the longstanding lack of any official analysis of the scale and nature of illegal immigration has allowed anxiety over the issue to grow unchecked, and it calls for the publication of an annual estimate based on exit check data.

It says recent reports of the Home Office threatening deportation based on inaccurate and untested information and before an independent appeal process risk undermining the credibility of the whole immigration system.

In one such case was Paulette Wilson, 61, who was detained for a week in immigration detention and threatened with deportation to Jamaica, a country she left 50 years ago when she was 10.

Media coverage of her case prompted a public outcry and she has since received a residency permit, confirming her settled status in the UK.

Her family have asked for an apology over the way she has been treated.

The inquiry, which canvased views of citizens’ panels held in towns and cities across Britain, calls for the government to build greater consensus and trust on immigration as part of framing a post-Brexit immigration policy.

The committee, chaired by the former Labour cabinet minister Yvette Cooper, recommends that an annual migration “budget” or report should be presented detailing migration flows, controls and targets, setting out the economic contribution from migration and what action is being taken to improve skills, training and integration.

The MPs’ report says the government’s target of reducing annual net immigration to below 100,000 should be replaced with different targets for different types of migration based on Britain’s needs. Students should immediately be removed from the target.

“The committee has a responsibility to build consensus and confidence on immigration rather than allowing this to be a divisive debate. But that requires a transformation in the way that immigration policy is made as too often the current approach has undermined trust in the system,” Ms Cooper said.

“Most people think immigration is important for Britain, but they want to know that the system is under control, that people are contributing to this country and that communities and public services are benefiting rather than facing pressures,” she said.

“And crucially they have different attitudes to different kinds of migration. We believe people should be working together to build consensus on the benefits and address concerns about problems on immigration.”

The report said concerns about accuracy and errors in the use of “hostile environment” measures mean the government should not rely on the policy as a panacea for enforcement and to build confidence in the immigration system.

“We are concerned that the policy is unclear and, in some instances, too open to interpretation and inadvertent error. Not only can these be deeply damaging and distressing to those involved – as with letters being sent to EU nationals about their right to live in the UK – they also undermine the credibility of the system,” the report says.

“This is particularly worrying in advance of the need to register EU nationals in preparation for Brexit,” it says.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist