A radical unwelcome
Fleur Houston fears letting in the Immigration Bill
The Immigration Bill is designed, the government says, to “create a really hostile environment” for people who do not have a legal right to be in the UK. In fact, it creates a hostile environment for us all. It damages communities, creates a climate of ethnic profiling and fosters xenophobia. It is, as Shami Chakrabati, director of Liberty, says: “A race relations nightmare waiting to happen.”
Landlords, GPs’ surgeries, banks and driving license authorities are required to conduct identity checks. There are serious practical and ethical problems with this. Private citizens will be forced to check on one another. Private landlords are to check on the immigration status of tenants and will be fined £3,000 if it is subsequently found to be undocumented. But the assessment of immigration status is more complex than simply checking a passport: 17% of British citizens do not have one. So, to comply, landlords would have to be familiar with 20 to 30 identity documents. Many landlords are likely to play safe and prefer a British passport holder. Fully-documented migrants, many of them refugees, will be affected. The restrictions are bound to impact disproportionately on those from a black and minority ethnic background. Those who cannot find accommodation may turn to exploitative rogue landlords, and the overall levels of destitution in the UK will undoubtedly increase.
GPs are required to check on the immigration status of their patients. The practice receptionist would have to check on the status of all patients at regular intervals, and have the relevant knowledge at his or her fingertips – a bureaucratic quagmire for a busy surgery. The proposed charges for primary healthcare are also questionable, addressing a non-existent problem: There is no “health tourism” – the evidence for it is purely anecdotal. But taxpayers who may have been in the UK for many years on a work visa will now have to pay a levy, as will unaccompanied children who get leave to remain at 18. Migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who have not yet been granted leave to remain in the UK will have to pay for treatment by a GP. They may put off seeing a doctor, they could be a hazard to public health, and, if pregnant, face increased risk of maternal and infant mortality…
This is an extract from the April 2014 edition of Reform.