Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy

We have a proud history in the UK of welcoming people into this country, and we value their vital contributions to our economy, culture and society. We certainly do not wish to see anyone who has a right to live and work in the UK being refused a tenancy or a job opportunity based on their race, religion or belief.

I agree with the Home Secretary when he said in his first statement before Parliament that the phrase hostile environment sends a message this “is unhelpful and it doesn’t represent our values as a country”. 

With Brexit fast approaching, we have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from past mistakes and build a fair and non-discriminatory immigration system that works for everyone. We have to send clear a message to discourage illegal migration, and indeed previous governments have made great strides in tackling illegal migration. At the same time, this new immigration system needs to be fair and humane to people legally seeking to enter or remain in this country.

I believe there needs to be a change of culture at the heart of the Home Office, because the focus has been on policy and process and not people. We must never lose sight of the fact that at the heart of these polices are people: individuals and families who deserve to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect.

I agree that where there are cases of mistreatment that has resulted in undue harm or wrongful denial to employment, housing, or services, we need to ensure that individuals are given the proper channels to seek redress and compensation for these mistakes. However, I do not believe that calling for a wholesale review of immigration policies and practices is a sensible option going forward.

Such an exercise would only impose unnecessary costs on taxpayers and distract government officials from carrying out the vital work required to right wrongs. There needs to be a change in Home Office policy and culture, not a review or an inquiry.