by Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, Race on the Agenda.
“The most racist piece of legislation in the last 30 years”. So said John McDonnell MP about the new Immigration Bill that the Coalition Government is currently ramming through parliament. The Bill had its second reading on 22nd October and marks the culmination of months of disgraceful dog-whistle politics about immigration as the main parties follow UKIP and Lynton Crosby further down into the gutter. Worryingly many community organisations and BAME groups do not realise just how damaging and dangerous the new legislation will be to community cohesion. Attempts by the Government to create “a hostile environment for illegal migrants” will actually end up with all BAME people being in danger of being picked on and profiled by the Police, Landlords, employers, banks, the NHS, and DVLC. All of these agencies will be now be expected to enforce immigration checks and can be fined for not doing so.
Existing guidance for employers on how to check the immigration status of employees runs to over 80 pages. Landlords and banks will now be more likely to be suspicious of any black, asian or other minority ethnic person who approaches them for a service. Settled black and asian communities will find themselves subject to increasing levels of racism and discrimination even where there they are entitled as British citizens to all services. This will happen increasingly even where there is no direct racist intention to be unfair to them but merely an intention to avoid the bureaucratic process of checking the papers of any and all BAME individuals because a small number of them might be subject to immigration control.
Recent scandals of overtly racist letting agents refusing to arrange tenancies for African Caribbeans (uncovered by an undercover BBC Inside Out team) are likely to become even more prevalent . Landlords will now have the excuse that they do not want to inquire as to immigration status and might incur a fine of up to £3000 if they were found to have let a property to an undocumented or irregular migrant. Their conclusion is likely to be that they won’t want to bother with anyone whose face doesn’t fit or who has a different colour of skin and for whom English is not their first language. In other words they will be a given a ready-made alibi should they wish to discriminate in ways that are reminiscent of the old signs saying “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”
The Movement Against Xenophobia (MAX) has recently been set up to campaign against this legislation and put pressure on politicians to avoid this race to the bottom before the next election. ROTA was one of the first signatories to MAX’s Founding Statement and we urge you to consider joining and supporting MAX’s activities either as an organisation or an ndividual. More information on Max can be gained from their website at: http://www.jcwi.org.uk/policy/movement-against-xenophobia