Immigration Bill

Written evidence from Emeritus Professor John Mellor (IB 47)

Summary: This submission concerns fundamentals including the preservation of the right of appeal and emergency NHS health treatment at no cost, international comparisons showing the need for better decision making, the flawed Impact Assessment which fails to analyse fully the likely impact on higher education, practicalities such as the extra responsibilities placed on landlords, the long-term likely effects of the Bill on UK society and the lessons to be drawn from recent Home Office performance in writing a new Immigration Bill.

This submission has 7 sections:

1) Relevant personal background of Professor John Mellor

2) Fundamentals

a) Conclusions to preserve fundamental rights

b) Comments on improving the quality of immigration decisions

3) International comparison

a) Conclusions concerning international comparisons

4) A flawed impact assessment

a) Personal examples and comments concerning the Impact Assessment

b) Conclusions concerning the flawed Impact Assessment

5) Practicalities

a) Personal examples and comments concerning Practicalities

b) Conclusions concerning Practicalities

6) Long-term effects on UK society

a) Personal examples and comments concerning long-term effects

b) Conclusions concerning long-term effects

7) The evidence of the recent performance of the Home Office

a) Personal examples and comments concerning the recent performance of the Home Office

b) Conclusions concerning the recent performance of the Home Office and the way forward

1 Relevant personal background: 40 years of higher education including Professor of Chemistry, Head of Department of Chemistry and member of Senate and Council of University of Southampton; 2 years work with Voluntary Service Overseas in Eritrea as a Professor of Chemistry; 7 years work, including trusteeship and Chair of Fundraising with the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group ( a group supporting destitute asylum seekers), 5 years as Chair of Management of the Avenue Multicultural Centre (the one stop drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees in Southampton), 25 years as Chair of the Trustees or a Trustee of the Avenue Centre, a Family Centre receiving highly vulnerable families by referral from the health and social service sectors.

2 Fundamentals: If the proposed Bill is passed, I believe an era will end. We will no longer show that we believe in ‘a long and proud history of immigration’ and believe that ‘Our immigrant communities are a fundamental part of who we are and we are a richer and stronger society because of them,’ (remarks of the Immigration Minister Mark Harper, 2nd reading 22nd October). A civilised society provides emergency health care for all. A prudent society ensures that those with communicable diseases receive good treatment whatever their visa status. These should apply to all whether asylum seekers, refugees, students or bankers. A civilised society permits appeals against all initial judgements of high consequence. Teresa May states in a reply to Caroline Lucas (2nd reading 22nd October), ‘We are going to put in place a system that enables people to have appeal rights in relation to fundamental rights.’

2a) Conclusions to preserve fundamental rights:

All initial decisions concerning removal should have a right of appeal

Emergency NHS health treatment should be available to all at no cost.

2b) Comments on improving the quality of immigration decisions:

There must be access to Legal Aid to preserve fundamental rights.

A full recording of all oral evidence should be made in immigration courts and tribunals.

A discussion of the rights of appeal must be based on the knowledge that initial decisions are frequently flawed as illustrated by the following points:

3 International comparison: A success on appeal against deportation of 30% and of nearly 50% for managed migration and entry clearance show our inefficiency. The appalling record of judicial decisions made in the UK relative to e.g. Sweden requires explanations and responses, not found in this Bill. I suggest far better training is needed for those making adjudications. Those making adjudications need a better training not just in the law but in the circumstances applying in those countries from which immigrants are arriving.

I have attended Feltham Court and observed the passage of 4 cases in a morning session. The Judge arrived openly saying that he had only read one case. The Home Office legal team had failed to arrive for 3 of the 4 cases. The Judge conducted the first case on the basis that he had read that case. However, it was he who asked the questions, not the absent Home Office individual. Once I saw the judgement I challenged it, because my verbal contribution was inaccurately reported. On raising the matter I was informed that there was nothing to be done because no record is taken. I understand that in most other Courts a record is made. On appeal the judgement made at Feltham was reversed.

3a) Conclusions concerning international comparisons:

There is ample evidence of the relative poor quality of initial decisions. Better training of adjudicators is needed.

An emphasis on early legal advice, as tried through ELAP, should be implemented.

4 A flawed Impact Assessment: Although the Immigration Minister Mark Harper has said, ‘We will continue to welcome the brightest and best migrants,’ (2nd reading 22nd October) no effective costing has been made concerning the impact on institutions of higher and further education. The impact of the proposed Bill should relate to both staff and students. Potential overseas students have much choice in deciding where to receive their education. This Immigration Bill leads to higher health charges, less attractive visa arrangements and greater difficulty in finding private rented accommodation relative to for example France and Germany. Our present position as the second most popular destination for international students will be eroded to the advantage of Australia, Canada, Ireland, the USA and others. To risk a potential loss to the UK economy of the student contribution of over £14 billion per year (Government response, Overseas students and net migration, February 2013), without a thorough impact assessment, is foolish.

The economic consequences of this proposed Bill will seriously hinder the recruitment of world-class scientists. In the 1930s this country welcomed scientists from Nazi Germany, who subsequently won Nobel Prizes. More recently Russian scientists have come to Manchester, received Nobel Prizes for their work on the new material graphene and have attracted 1 billion euros in funding from the EU.

4a) Personal examples and comments concerning the Impact Assessment: Working in one of the few departments of chemistry always to have received a 5 rating for research, I have observed closely the criteria by which students select a place in higher education. The UK still has an advantage in attracting international students because of the medium of education, English, but nowadays many competing universities in non-English speaking countries offer English-based courses. Potential students are also very sensitive to the financial costs and the desire to live in a welcoming community. The recent decline in students coming from India (- 35%) and Pakistan (- 54%) in the April to June figures for 2013 is a warning that adverse publicity impacts on student choice.

I have sat in undergraduate lectures in 1956 next to an asylum seeker from Hungary, who subsequently obtained a distinguished first class degree and went on to obtain a knighthood for services to medical science in the UK.

As a Director of a Graduate School I have met refugees, a husband and wife from Romania, who in turn obtained PhDs, whilst raising their three children.

I have supervised students from Africa, one an asylum seeker, who have received PhD degrees and are making major contributions in academia and in business in the UK.

If we wish to maintain first-class research standards a welcome should be given to students and scientists from diverse backgrounds. Thereby we ‘welcome the brightest and best migrants.’

I conclude that if we are to maintain first class research traditions based on a welcome to ‘the brightest and best migrants,’ we must not discourage them by some of the steps outlined in this bill.

4b) Conclusions concerning the flawed Impact Assessment:

Before this Immigration Bill is passed the concerns of Universities UK (Parliamentary briefing October 22nd) should be heeded. In particular they are about the already evident reduction in net migration due to visa policy, rights of appeal, the impact on staff and students of charges for NHS services and the introduction of landlord checks.

In the light of the above concerns, shared by many, a thorough Impact Assessment is needed of the impact of the proposed Bill on the further and higher education sectors with analysis of the impact on both staff and students.

If it is considered practical to ease visa regulations for certain potential immigrants from China, similar measures should be taken to ensure optimum recruitment of staff and students to UK universities from other countries.

5 Practicalities: Some of the proposals in the Immigration Bill are impractical. The average landlord will avoid taking tenants viewed as potential risks because of an inability to assess their documentation. There are innumerable documents making satisfactory interpretation difficult. Also many immigrants lacking simple documentation present difficulties of interpretation for professionals. About 40% of our population have no passport or identification papers. Too often both before and after an immigration decision there is a long delay before papers become available. To ask landlords to take risks, or spend considerable time in consulting with experts is unrealistic in the present tenancy market. Similarly, those in the hard-pressed health sector facing future years of additional health related demands, will be infuriated to have visa related concerns. The possibility of establishing any additional units to provide advice to landlords and health workers will prove costly.

5a) Personal examples and comments concerning Practicalities:

For 7 years I have met asylum seekers regularly and over the last 5 years I have had contact with over 50 each week. In signposting to those who might give informed legal, medical and other advice, I have encountered those with no documentation, those with scruffy pieces of paper or plastic cards which failed to inform fully and rarely passports. Far too many examples occur of documentation lost by Government officials, who fail to respond to subsequent requests for information. Aside from the uncertain documentation, additional complexities are usually present. The use of interpreters in the courts and in health interviews, emphasize the difficulty of communication with many asylum seekers. A further complication is the utter bewilderment experienced by many migrants in their strange surroundings.

I met frequently with a well-educated Iraqi doctor, initially imprisoned in the UK but now working as a surgeon for the NHS. He suffered from many difficulties concerning his documentation.

I met those from Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopia and many other countries who were less well educated who frequently needed assistance from volunteers. Some have very inadequate documentation. Often delays in transmission of documentation are blamed on the Home Office. In my experience this has been a serious problem for 7 years.

5b) Conclusions concerning Practicalities:

I conclude based on my experience of the last 7 years working with the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) that the proposals concerning landlords are unworkable.

SWVG has paid for lodgings for destitute asylum seekers for many years, while their claims are being processed, at a cost of over £50,000 per year. This support would be in jeopardy with the proposed arrangements. The consequence nationally will be many asylum seekers will become destitute, as they can no longer receive support from the third sector. Similar difficulties will be encountered for others inexperienced in visa control.

The proposals are well summarised by Simon Jenkins (Guardian 13th November), ‘Theresa May’s crazy visa controls.’

6 Long-term effects on UK society:

The proposed Bill appears to ignore long-term changes in UK society. An ageing population combined with more effective but more expensive health care are placing further pressures on the health sector. As we train too few nurses and doctors we need to benefit from recruitment from outside the UK. At this time the lack of nurses is critical. Any measure making their recruitment more difficult will accentuate the problems of the health sector. A related difficulty concerns recruitment of care assistants. Many organisations rely on relatively unskilled workers who are migrants. Many refugees prove to be excellent care assistants. At a time when our educational standards are seen to be below those of many other developed countries, the UK is faced with a substantial tail of poorly qualified workers. Today migrant workers fill many of the resulting gaps. This Bill must ensure that the entry of those looking for employment in sectors where we have labour shortages are not discouraged; in the words of Yvette Cooper, ‘ pulling up the drawbridge on all migration is not good for Britain.’

6a) Personal examples and comments concerning long-term effects:

I have met many asylum seekers who after obtaining Leave to Remain have worked as surgeons, nurses and care assistants in the UK.

I have met migrant families from Eastern Europe and many other countries who through their high work ethic have been very respected workers in relatively unskilled employment.

6b) Conclusion concerning long-term-effects:

I conclude that an Immigration Bill, which respects the real needs of the UK, should ensure that migration fills gaps in the UK workforce. This Bill will hinder the filling of some of these gaps.

7 The evidence of the recent performance of the Home Office:

A country, where the work load of many MPs is about 40% (e.g. Simon Hughes) on immigration matters, needs to change dramatically the inefficient practices and the lack of humanity which presently too often characterise our policy and execution of that policy. The consequence of having 400,000 or more cases unresolved is huge individual misery. Our recent control of immigration is so bad that lessons should be learnt from Canada, the USA, Germany and Scandinavian countries.

7a) Personal examples and comments concerning the recent performance of the Home Office:

I have met many asylum seekers, who have waited for over 10 years before receiving Leave to Remain.

I know of one case where an asylum seeker was removed having spent 13 years and 11 months in the UK. At the time he would have had the right to remain if he had been in the UK for 14 years.

I know of the case of an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka who was removed. Before removal he was taken from UK detention to the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, where he was questioned about his request for asylum in the UK. At Colombo Airport he was greeted by the cameras of the media who had been forewarned of the return of asylum seekers. He was forced into hiding as a result of the resulting publicity.

I know of a Kurd who was about to be returned to Baghdad. As a result of a last minute phone call he was removed from the plane at Gatwick. At the time of this attempted removal he still had a live appeal. Subsequently he won his appeal and was given Leave to Remain.

I have many more examples where a combination of inefficiency and inhumanity suggest that a new Immigration Bill is needed to provide a framework for a humane and efficient treatment of migrants.

7b) Conclusions concerning the recent performance of the Home Office and the way forward:

Sadly the ‘not fit for purpose’ comment has been all too evident in my observations of Home Office performance. It appears not to be an issue of political direction as the failures continue through successive administrations.

If a new Immigration Bill is produced at roughly 2 year intervals and the system remains broken, it is surely time that a very thorough assessment is made of the way forward.

The Home Office should study the policies and operations in Canada, the USA, Germany and Scandinavian countries and revise this proposed Bill in the light of the lessons, which are there to be learned.

The well-founded criticisms within the UK now being made concerning this Bill and fundamental rights, practicalities concerning landlords, the employment, health and education sectors and the lessons to be learnt from our recent experiences, must be listened to and time is needed to produce a very different new Immigration Bill.

November 2013

Prepared 20th November 2013