Immigration Bill

Written evidence submitted by Leeds Coalition against the Immigration Bill (IB 55)

1) We are a group of Leeds residents from a variety of backgrounds, including health care professionals, teachers, academics and migrant rights campaigners. We have either first-hand experience of the immigration system as migrants, refugees and asylum seekers or have worked alongside migrants and asylum seekers over a number of years. The following is our submission to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee in relation to the Government’s Immigration Bill

2) We oppose the Immigration Bill now being rushed through Parliament and referred to by one MP as "the most racist piece of legislation since the 1960s". We believe this Bill dehumanises migrants, promotes racial profiling, further criminalises communities of colour and turns ordinary people and front-line workers into border police. For instance, it will force landlords to check the immigration status of people who rent their properties and put health workers in the position of denying fundamental rights such as free access to health care.

3) Leeds has seen a significant decrease in the legal support available for migrants, not least as a result of cuts in legal aid. One of the few remaining organisations offering free immigration advice in the City, the Harehills and Chapeltown Law Centre, was forced to close last week, further limiting the legal support available in Leeds. We believe the Bill’s proposal to increase the speed of deportations and further restrict the right to appeal by introducing a limited administrative review system will further exacerbate an already very difficult situation . Adrian Berry of the Immigration Lawyers’ Practitioners Association has highlighted the detrimental impact the Bill will have on the ability to access independent and impartial judicial support, this is especially worrying given that poor decision-making is standard in asylum cases and appeals act as a much needed safeguard. We have witnessed first-hand the impact limited access to legal support has on individuals in Leeds and believe that the measures proposed in the bill will only serve to increase the vulnerability faced by individuals in need of legal support. With this Bill we argue that the Home Office hopes to remove and silence people before their 'no' decision can be examined by the courts.

4) In relation to the proposed restrictions ‘irregular’ migrants will face when accessing health care and housing, if implemented these measures will increase the potential for corrupt landlords to exploit already vulnerable people and will lead to more overcrowding, homelessness and destitution. Compelling landlords, health professionals, bank staff and DVLA workers to check immigration status before providing essential services also has the potential to lead to racial profiling and undermine trust among communities in the City. This would also in practice mean identity checks for everyone in the UK. Many frontline staff are not equipped to understand the wide variety of legal statuses and entitlements that migrants may have. Faced with a £3000 fine for providing services to the "wrong" person professionals will have to racially profile people in order to deny services to anyone who might be an ‘irregular’ migrant. This kind of institutional racism is promoted by the Bill. Much work has been done to help build a welcoming and supportive environment in Leeds for migrants with a wide range of grassroots organisations and campaign groups working tirelessly over the years to counter racism and prejudice. For the reasons stated above we believe the Immigration Bill would seriously undermine the work of such positive initiatives.

5) We believe the Bill is not only unworkable and unenforceable but also very dangerous as it scapegoats migrants and further sets in law the idea that some people among us are "illegal" and should be denied healthcare, housing and basic legal safeguards. The legislation will also increase distrust and racial tensions between and within communities. Habib Rahman, for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, says "These measures will divide society, creating a two-tier Britain, a return  to the days of 'no dogs, no blacks, no Irish' and of ill people with no access to healthcare walking the streets of Britain. This bill is a travesty and must be stopped". We fully support Habib Rahman’s statement and call on the Public Bill Committee to stop this Immigration Bill from progressing.

November 2013

Prepared 20th November 2013