Described variously as “ugly, divisive politics” (Sarah Teather MP), a “valuable tool for racist landlords” (Maurice Mcleod), “meandering popularism” (John Harris) and “immigration policy that has lost even any semblance of correlation with reality” (Dave Stamp of ASIRT), there’s a lot to digest (or spit out, disgusted) in the new Immigration Bill.
In this latest post, NCADC’s legal volunteer Jacqueline analyses the major policy changes, and the responses they have provoked.
A new Immigration Bill has been published by the Home Office, aimed at making it tougher for migrants to settle in the UK. The changes will include reducing appeal rights, limiting access to health care, new requirements for private landlords, restrictions on bank account access and bail application restrictions. For details of the new clauses, see this summary on the Free Movement blog.
One of the most significant changes this bill is making is the curtailment of appeal rights. Theresa May said “We are reducing the number of appeal rights that currently exist. There are seventeen, we are taking this back down to four…This bill will mean that it will be easier for us to remove people who shouldn’t be here”.
BBC home affairs correspondent, Dominic Casciani, gives a useful summary of what the reduction of 17 to 4 appeal rights actually involves. 14 of the immigration decisions which can be appealed are found in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and include decisions such as refusal to allow someone to enter the UK, or decisions to deport or remove someone. The three decisions not included in the 2002 act are:
- Decisions in asylum cases;
- Decisions to revoke refugee status;
- and Decisions which breach EU law (such as freedom of movement).
With the new Bill in place, it will only be possible to appeal cases:
- involving a human rights claim;
- where someone says they need humanitarian or asylum protection;
- where such protection has been revoked; or
- where someone has a right to stay under EU law.
In addition to this, any appeals by “foreign criminals” will only be heard after they have been removed, with the caveat that this will not be the case if there is risk of “serious and irreversible harm”. It is asserted that, given the bounteous volume of cases in which an appeal against a Home Office decision is successful, they simply cannot be trusted to make a conclusive first-instance decision that there is no risk of serious and irreversible harm to someone being deported before their appeal is heard.
The four categories of appeal do not include instances where there is a factual error which has resulted in a bad decision. It is therefore expected that there will be a massive increase in judicial review cases, which are more expensive than appeals (assuming judicial review is not subsequently limited – after controversy over recent proposals, a government consultation on this is forthcoming). A new system of “Administrative Review” (internal review) is currently being developed, supposedly to help limit the impact of the new restrictions on judicial review.
Access to NHS
The new bill is going to “introduce a new requirement for temporary migrants, for example, overseas students, who have only a time-limited immigration status to make a contribution to the National Health Service”.
Like most of other draconian changes, a new requirement that migrants contribute to the NHS has already come under heavy criticism. The charity Doctors of the World UK have condemned the new rules as “unethical”. DOTW take a balanced view of the bill, opining that it is perhaps reasonable to require, for example, tourists or students, to be insured and use this insurance to contribute to health costs. However, they draw a distinction between levying the affluent as opposed to penalising the vulnerable:
[The] economic and ethical justifications fail in the proposal to charge those in clinical need who have no way of paying the £200 levy, or any other costs for that matter. These include vulnerable groups such as undocumented migrants (who have no access to public funds), trafficked people (usually women and children), visa over stayers and domestic slaves.
DOTW go on to say that there is actually no economic argument for imposing this levy on such vulnerable groups as it is well-established now that it is cheaper to act early to prevent a health problem from worsening than it is to treat an issue once it as reached the stage of requiring emergency attention. Note, this is not the only recent change made by the Home Office which has no justification either ethically, or financially (see our recent blog post on this).
Other new rules imposed by the bill include:
- requirement for landlords to check prospective tenants’ immigration status;
- provisions to stop persons who require but do not have leave to enter or remain opening bank or building society accounts.
- refusal of any bail applications made within 28 days of an unsuccessful application for bail, absent a change of circumstances
Again, there will be issues here for detainees, including an additional area where the Home Office will not be accountable for their mistakes.
Again, this will lead to a rise in expensive judicial reviews.
- Enlargement of state powers to search individuals and premises; and record, use and retain biometrics;
- Stricter investigations into “sham marriages”
The changes, by the Home Office’s express admission, are designed to make the UK a more hostile place for migrants, regardless of any moral, legal or financial sense.
As Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti has recently said, “Fair and legitimate immigration rules have their place but this nasty Bill is a race relations nightmare waiting to happen.”
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