This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the debate due to take place in the House of Lords on the motion moved by Lord Bassam of Brighton that “this House takes note of the impact of the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ approach towards illegal immigration on those with residency and employment rights”. The Briefing summarises the background to the policy, measures introduced in connection to it, commentary on the impact of the policy, and recent developments, including those relating to the ‘Windrush generation’.Jump to full report >>
The ‘hostile environment’ policy (which the Government now refers to as the ‘compliant environment’ policy) refers to a range of measures aimed at identifying and reducing the number of immigrants in the UK with no right to remain. Many of these were introduced by the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016, and include measures seeking to restrict illegal immigrants renting property in the UK, driving, having bank accounts and accessing benefits and free healthcare. Some of these measures included data-sharing between other government departments or external organisations and the Home Office, and the requirement for document checks by those providing certain services.
The Government has stated the policies are needed to deter illegal immigration. However, the Opposition has called for an end to the policy, believing it has had a negative impact on individuals’ lives, including those with a right to live in the UK. For example, there have been a number of reports of Commonwealth migrants who have lived in the UK since before 1973 (often referred to as the ‘Windrush generation’), who have a legal right to live in the country under the Immigration Act 1971, being denied access to services and being sent letters threatening them with deportation or detention due to their inability to provide documentation of their right to reside in the UK. The Home Office has confirmed that it has identified 63 individuals who may have been wrongfully deported. In addition, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has stated that there are issues monitoring the overall impact of the policy, and has highlighted occasions of people being wrongly denied access to driving licences and bank accounts or being discriminated against by landlords. Further, some commentators, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, have claimed the policy measures can cause racism and discrimination.
The Government has recently legislated for and introduced a ‘Windrush scheme’ aimed at rectifying some of the issues suffered by the ‘Windrush generation’ individuals. In addition, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, stated on 3 June 2018 that many of the ‘compliant environment’ policy measures were now being reviewed.
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