Is the UK Government’s Immigration Bill Xenophobic?

Yesterday, the LEXLAW ImmigrationTeam attended a parliamentary meeting on the Immigration Bill at the House of Commons organised by Movement Against Xenophobia (MAX) and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) with support from the Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL). The meeting raised awareness of the principles behind the Bill and provided an insight into how the measures will, in practice, racially discriminate against many sections of UK society. The Immigration Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 10 October 2013 and subject to its Parliamentary progress, is set to receive royal assent in spring next year.

Debate on the UK Government’s “Tough” Immigration Bill

In October last year, the British government introduced a new bill to reform immigration law which they hope will crack down on those who are in the UK illegally. The Immigration Bill has caused much debate in the UK and the measures introduced in the Bill have been described by MAX as being “unjust, expensive and potentially unlawful.”

Our Immigration Team had the honour of being invited to MAX’s parliamentary meeting and heard from speakers including Sailesh Mehta from SAL, Dr Richard Vautery from the British Medical Association (BMA), Daniel Stevens from the National Union of Students (NUS), Leander Neckles from the Race Equality Foundation and Lord Alf Dubs, a Labour peer of the House of Lords.

Overview of Parliamentary Meeting on Immigration Bill

It was noted that peers from the House of Lords are eager to engage in an open debate about immigration in the UK and aim to change the attitude of the British public especially in light of negative media coverage.

The following points were made by guest speakers:

  • Leander Neckles from the Race Equality Foundation believes that the Immigration Bill has the potential to severely harm migrants and wider black and minority ethnic communities. She interestingly noted that the Bill will lead to racial discrimination and had the potential to render those from ethnic backgrounds homeless as they may be refused housing by landlords who would be reluctant to provide them with tenancy agreements due to background checks.
  • Dr Richard Vautery from the BMA noted that the public were more likely to be treated by migrants than come across one. He stated that the NHS is facing many problems but health tourism is not one of them. Dr Vautery highlighted the importance of hiring medical professionals from abroad and noted that some NHS specialists are listed on the Home Office’s Shortage of Occupations List.
  • Daniel Stevens, a NHS International Students Officer spoke about the unfairness of the NHS surcharge proposed in the Immigration Bill which would require undergraduates to pay £600 upfront in addition to what he described an expensive visa fee.

What can you do to oppose the Immigration Bill?

MAX is a coalition of civil society groups, faith groups, trade unions and individuals who have come together to oppose xenophobia and misinformation in the immigration debate. MAX was launched in October 2013 and is affiliated with 75 organisations including Detention Action, Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA), JCWI and Refugee Action.

If you wish to oppose the Immigration Bill, you can raise awareness of the measures of the bill which seek to create a hostile environment for all migrants (including those members of the public who are British born and are from ethnic backgrounds) and measures which would reduce the rights of appeal, rights to bail and to deport people without an in country right of appeal.

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