migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Status Now

Editorial: Status Now

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Status Now

The hostile environment is not working – for anyone. A new report by the National Audit Office criticises the Home Office on two counts – not knowing if its hostile policies are having the desired effect, and not knowing how many undocumented migrants are in the UK.

If only the Home Office had asked us, we could have told them that this policy causes untold suffering to untold numbers of people on a daily basis and does little, if anything, to “encourage” undocumented people to leave the UK, as they hoped it would.

By criticising the Home Office in this way, the NAO report exposes an ugly truth that we have long known – that the hostile environment was largely designed to grab headlines and win votes. But for those on the receiving end of this environment – whether it’s labelled ‘hostile’ or, after a superficial rebranding exercise, ‘compliant’ – they are a painful reality. Undocumented and documented people alike – along with British citizens – are prevented from renting a home, getting a job, accessing healthcare and participating in society, whether because of their status or the discrimination that the hostile environment directly engenders.

The hostile environment is not working – for anyone. 

This is why we are calling once again, this time alongside 54 other UK charities, for regularisation of all those who are undocumented in this country. The campaign ‘Status Now’, sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, wants to see everyone in the UK able to access healthcare, housing, food and basic financial support from the State.

Many people who are undocumented were brought to the UK as children or were born here and believed they were British, only discovering in their adulthood that they have no status. Others came here legally but lost their status after the breakdown of a relationship or because they can no longer afford the extortionate visa fees and surcharges that are financially crippling to any ordinary family. Some are asylum seekers whose claims were wrongly refused and for whom it’s unsafe to return to the country they came from. Others still are the victims of Home Office mistakes or of the unnecessarily complex, draconian immigration rulebook, where the goalposts are constantly shifting. 

One of our members was just one year away from getting indefinite leave to remain when the Home Office refused her application to renew her visa – along with those of her husband and four children. The reason? The fees had gone up on the day they submitted their applications and they were given no opportunity to find and pay the additional amount. For five years, that family battled the Home Office in court to grant them their leave to remain. For five years, that family was undocumented, relying on the kindness of friends to get by.

And this family isn’t unusual. We’ve worked with thousands of migrants over the last decade, many of them facing unimaginable horrors at the hands of a Home Office that is trying to make them leave.

Yet people stay in the UK - because they have no other choice; because it’s not safe for them in their country of origin; because they were trafficked and are now trapped by their exploitative employer; because they have British children who they cannot simply leave behind; because the Home Office threw out its own rulebook when it told them to leave in the first place; because this is their home and it’s wrong to ask them to leave.

The hostile environment isn’t working – for anyone. Its abolition and a programme of regularisation are long overdue. We’re proud to be working alongside so many others to make this call. And we won’t be silent until it’s achieved.

 

TOP IMAGE: Immigration Arrival Stamp in Passport, Karn Bulsuk (Flickr), CC BY-NC 2.0