Speaking for Ourselves

A new PM must end the hostility towards migrants

A new PM must end the hostility towards migrants


 Migrant Voice - A new PM must end the hostility towards migrants

Britain is in flux and so is Europe: another new prime minister in the UK -  the third in three years, an election 30 months away at most, the effects of Brexit still impacting politically and economically, a major war in Europe with more national boundaries threatened and millions of people already displaced. 

Times are changing faster than governments can handle and certainly faster than the prime ministerial hopefuls appear to have realised. There’s rarely been greater need for tolerance, cohesion, stability and inclusive leadership. Yet the country continues to be saddled with a “hostile environment policy” on immigration with grievous effects on many of the estimated 6 million migrants who are contributing so richly to our social fabric and economy. Scrapping the policy should be one of the new prime minister’s top priorities.

The hostile environment reached a nadir with the so far wholly unsuccessful plan to send some of those seeking asylum to Rwanda. It has been described as “appalling”, “immoral” and “barbaric”. It may even be illegal, though a court ruling has been postponed until September.

But trying to bribe our way out of our international obligations by paying one of the world’s poorest countries to do our job of processing and looking after asylum seekers, and the callous and scandalous mistreatment of the Windrush generation as well as the subsequent and continuing failure to provide fair, swift compensation - are only two graphic examples of a raft of egregious results of the hostile environment.

Hostility created by the policy runs deep and affects all key areas of life. The illegality of many Home Office decisions, driven by the policy, is weakening our most precious quality: the rule of law. Compensation for breaches of rights and laws is costing millions of pounds. Making landlords responsible for checking the status of tenants is fostering suspicion and intolerance, not only of migrants but of Britons perceived as looking or speaking “like a migrant”.

The ever-rising cost of already extortionate visa fees for hundreds of thousands of people we have invited to work here causes resentment, poverty and ill-health and alienates a vital part of the nation.

Regulations split families; people who have done no wrong except flee for their safety are held behind locked doors and further traumatised.

We could continue the list of harms and hurts but as we wrote this editorial (12 July) came a report that symbolises the mess: a British resident with indefinite leave to remain was told her 15-month-old baby couldn’t come to Britain because the child’s life could continue in Jamaica with financial support from his mother in the UK.  Within a day of the story being reported in the press, the Home Office announced that it had given permission for the baby to come to the UK.

The hostile environment policy is expensive, divisive, destructive and counter-productive. For example, the Home Office’s now entrenched culture of distrust and obstruction is getting in the way of the government’s own policy of admitting a number of refugees from Ukraine. Similarly, it is operating a special visa scheme for people wanting to leave Hong Kong, but Hong Kong Chinese will not feel at home if they fear their children will be bullied at school because some members of the public see the hostile environment as giving an official green light to abusing migrants. Hostility does not create confidence, at home or abroad. It makes a mockery of any notion of a “Global Britain”. 

A new prime minister and a government trying to reset itself in the midst of an alarming cost-of-living crisis needs to set an example by dismantling the hostile environment and taking the right approach that unites everyone living, working and studying here. This will benefit the whole society in the long term, replacing an approach based on short term political gain through pandering to the far right.


Photo credit: UK Government  resized and licensed for use under http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/

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