On 14th May 2014 the Immigration Act 2014 was given the Royal assent. According to the Home Office the Act will ensure our immigration system is fairer to British citizens and legitimate migrants, whilst being tougher on those with no rights to be here.
When the Bill was introduced its purpose was to create a hostile environment for migrants. The passage of the Bill has been controversial and heavily criticised.
The key measures within the Immigration Act include the introduction of new in country enforcement mechanisms to tackle “irregular migration”, most prominently restricting irregular migrants’ access to private housing, Bank accounts and driving licences in the UK. It contains significant restrictions on access to appeals, particular for some migrants facing removal from the UK. It also introduces a new health charge for temporary non-EA family migrants living legitimately in the UK with the aim of increasing their contribution to the costs of NHS care. Co-opting private landlords, Bank tellers and DVLA staff into the business of checking immigration documents will inevitably result in racial discrimination against some migrants and ethnic minority British citizens. This would also in the case of housing make some migrants more liable to exploitation by criminal landlords in the UK. The efforts to reduce access to justice for migrants by removing the right of appeal for most immigration decisions will mean that poor decision making by the Home Office goes unchallenged and would potentially lead to an increase in people remaining in the UK without status. The introduction of new health charges would particularly impact on some vulnerable or lower paid groups of migrants coming to the UK. The Government states that the new immigration this would largely be aimed at creating a hostile environment for irregular migrants living in the UK. However, it will actually make life difficult for a much wider group of migrants and British citizens.
It is worth reiterating some of the known information about irregular migrants in the UK. Firstly we have to recognise that these groups include children born to irregular parents. Secondly, irregular migrants contribute considerably to the UK economy through labour, spending and taxes and are employed in low paid occupations in the informal economy such as cleaning, hospitality and construction, where they are liable to exploitation and where their contribution is tolerated and even facilitated by a lack of proper employment regulation. The purely enforcement led approach by the Government will not reduce the number of irregular migrants in the UK and might even have the opposite effect. The creation of an explicitly hostile environment without, the accompanying policies to address some of the aggravating factors which may cause forced irregular, migration is more likely to discourage rather than encourage irregular migrants from leaving the UK.
The available data relating to appeals suggests that applicants enjoy a relatively high success rate on appeal. The high rate of successful appeals indicates that initial decision making by the Home Office is frequently poor. Rather than preventing migrants from seeking redress against poor decision making, the Home Office should demonstrate their commitment to improving the decision making in the first place by increasing its investment in resources within the immigration system.