Peers are left to head off racist Bill

by Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, Race on the Agenda.

Yet again we are at the mercy of the House of Lords.  After the Immigration Bill passed the House of Commons with only 16 MPs voting against it, we are again in the situation where we are reliant on the House of Lords to head off damaging, dangerous and badly thought-through legislation. One of the MPs who did have the guts to vote against the Bill , John McDonnell, has correctly described the Immigration Bill as the most racist legislation he has seen in his twenty years in Parliament.

Along with other race equality, migrants and anti-racist organisations, ROTA has been lobbying Peers to bring to their attention the disastrous consequences of the Bill if it proceeds into law without very significant amendments. The Coalition for Race Equality of which ROTA  is a member has prepared a briefing for Peers which is available here

CORE shares the concerns raised by senior church leaders about the tone of the debate around immigration. Talk of creating a hostile environment for unlawful migrants is dangerous because it encourages a hostile environment for all visible migrants, which includes anyone from a Black and Minority Ethnic community. The Bill will have extensive and damaging effects on equality and human rights in the UK. Some of the most serious and adverse equality implications are as follows:

Without significant and fundamental amendment, this flawed Bill will not reduce unlawful immigration, nor result in the removal of those without the right to be in the UK because it does little to nothing to address the fundamental,  longstanding and growing problems of the defunct UK Borders Agency and its Home Office successor.

To rub salt into the wound, we believe that the implementation of the Bill’s provisions, in their current form, will:

  • create a toxic and racist environment for access to housing and healthcare,
  • aggravate existing race discrimination in private rented housing , increasing homelessness;
  • encourage racial profiling across a much wider range of services than at present, leading to racial disproportionalities similar to those that exist in relation to stop and search;
  • impact not only on undocumented and short-term migrants, but wider migrant and BME communities; reduce access to healthcare for those directly targeted by the NHS proposal and also people from wider BME communities who are likely to face new barriers to access;
  •  place a greater burden on all patients to prove their eligibility for free NHS services, including when seeking emergency healthcare;
  •  increase the potential for the spread of serious infectious disease (e.g. HIV, TB) which already disproportionately affect BME people, within and beyond BME communities;
  • be, in effect, a charter for racial and other forms of harassment and abuse where people encounter rogue decision-makers (e.g. rogue landlords);
  • make a range of service providers and individuals into unpaid (and untrained) immigration officials;
  •  encourage a climate that will make it more difficult for the most vulnerable, including victims of trafficking, to seek and get help;
  • encourage the demand for identity papers on a previously unforeseen scale as individuals are asked to prove their entitlement to public services; these checks will disproportionately impact on migrants and wider BME communities;
  • result in new red tape across vast swathes of the private, public and voluntary sectors;
  •  raise serious, and possibly insurmountable, data protection and privacy concerns;
  • be unworkable and/or an administrative nightmare for those administering the provisions.