3:58 pm - October 21st 2013
by Anita Hurrell
The government’s new Immigration Bill is about two things: making it easier for the Home Office to forcibly remove and deport people, and creating a ‘really hostile environment’ in the belief that people will leave the UK if their existence here is made impossible.
If the Bill goes through, legal rights to appeal wrong decisions for all migrants, including the sought-after Brightest and Best, will be severely restricted. This is happening at the same time as the government is cutting off access to the courts through changes to legal aid and judicial review.
Will there be any opposition? The Lib Dems broadly support the Bill, claiming ‘the worst of the Tory excesses have been stripped out’.
And what about Labour? There are some predictable lines: the Tories are still failing on immigration; government is missing its own target; the Bill won’t tackle biggest problems; ‘illegal immigration’ is up and deportation numbers down; The Bill does nothing about exploitation in the labour market. And Yvette Cooper said ‘checks on driving licences and bank accounts sound sensible and build on changes Labour made before the election’ and ‘landlord checks are sensible in principle’.
But this Bill shouldn’t be allowed to pass unopposed for many reasons – here are a few.
1. Stripping people of appeal rights will lead to more bureaucratic chaos
People will no longer be able to appeal on the basis that the Home Office got its decision wrong. Independent scrutiny of many of the decisions that determine people’s lives will go. A person will only have an internal administrative review, which will be ineffective and is a recipe for even more backlogs and delays.
2. Cutting appeal rights will shift costs
Cutting down the decisions which give rise to a right of appeal will lead to more judicial reviews, displacing what were simple fact-finding hearings in the First-Tier Tribunal to the more expensive and time-consuming JR jurisdiction of the Upper Tribunal.
3. The Bill will hit highly skilled migrants
A Tier 1 entrepreneur wrongly denied an extension of her/his visa won’t get the chance to have the decision examined by the independent Tribunal. Yet there is no evidence that appeals are currently meritless: in 2012/13 49% of Managed Migration appeals were allowed.
4. The government’s approach to Article 8 and children’s rights is wrong
The government had a go in the Immigration Rules at dictating to the courts how to interpret Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the qualified right to respect for private and family life. It is now trying to do it in statute. But its approach does not reflect the law on Article 8 or on children’s best interests, and its attempt should concern those who want to defend the Human Rights Act and the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.
5. Immigration enforcement must not come at the expense of children’s welfare
Labour should be proud of lifting the reservation on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that said foreign children didn’t count. The proposals in the Bill totally undermine that progress and fly in the face of case law on children’s best interests.
6. Casual with civil liberties.
Can anyone who wants to be able to talk about civil liberties really allow further restrictions on bail applications in a country where the government can detain people indefinitely with no automatic judicial oversight? HM Inspectorate of Prisons last year found someone in who had been in immigration detention for nine years.
7. Landlord checks cannot work.
Landlord checks are illiberal, authoritarian and likely to lead to discrimination for anyone whom a letting agent thinks looks a bit foreign. They will place a massive regulatory burden on individual landlords (most of whom only let one property), push vulnerable people further underground and manufacture homelessness, which will increase costs on local government due to statutory homelessness and community care duties.
8. Neither will cutting off access to healthcare
The evidence of health tourism isn’t there. The British Medical Association said: ‘The reality is people don’t come to the UK to use the NHS, they’re more likely to come to work in the NHS.’ And there are public health risks: the proposals are ‘as disastrous for community health as they are financially moronic’.
9. Identity checks for all.
The system being proposed is one of identity checks for all. We will all have to prove our status to access services, and for some this will be easier than others.
This Bill is the nastiest piece of legislation in a long time, even compared to the depths to which New Labour sank in the early-2000s anti-asylum hysteria. It’s Lynton Crosby politics. What have we come to if this kind of legislation passes unopposed?
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