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Human rights groups publish guide to the 'hostile environment' and how it can be challenged

Date of Publication: 
10 April 2018

Liberty, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Migrants’ Rights Network among the guide's authors

Human rights groups publish guide to the 'hostile environment' and how it can be challenged

10 April 2018

Liberty, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Migrants' Rights Network and six other human rights groups yesterday published a notable new report on the Government's so-called "hostile environment" policy towards migrants.

The 58-page report 'A Guide to the Hostile Environment: the border controls dividing our communities – and how we can bring them down' can be downloaded here.

The guide states: "Since 2010, the Government has launched a new wave of attacks on the human rights of undocumented people in the UK through a set of policies known as the 'hostile environment'. These brutal policies prevent people from accessing housing, healthcare, education, work, bank accounts, benefits and even drivers' licences. They were dreamt up by the 'hostile environment working group' under the Coalition Government and are implemented primarily by the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts."

Across 10 individual sections, the guide covers the hostile environment's impact on schools; higher education; health; banking; housing; driving; employment; migrant families and social support; rough sleeping; and street stops.

The guide says undocumented migrants find themselves criminalised for doing what they must to survive.

It warns that migrants may become undocumented due to the inherent injustices of the immigration system: "Far from intentionally trying to evade the rules, people often become undocumented because they’re unable to scrape together ever-increasing application fees, challenge poor Home Office decision-making, or pay a solicitor to help them keep up with rapidly changing immigration rules."

In strong language, the director of Liberty, Martha Spurrier, accused the Government of waging a war on migrants' rights which has made the UK a place where people with life-threatening illnesses avoid seeking medical care and undocumented families face a choice between homelessness or having their children taken into care.

The guide says the hostile environment is by its very nature discriminatory and it therefore encourages discriminatory, and even racist, behaviour.

Liberty says its guide also highlights some of the opposition to the Government's hostile environment policy and explains how people can take positive action to stop it.

"These toxic policies depend on willing participation from people across society – but that will also be their downfall. Civil servants, doctors, teachers and the wider public are already refusing to be complicit in the Government's attempt to turn us all into border guards. If more of us do so, we can fight for a country that guarantees people's fundamental rights, wherever they come from," Spurrier added.

Alan Monroe of Against Borders for Children campaign said the guide is vital in explaining how people could resist the policies and make schools and communities safe for everyone, whatever their immigration status.

Jilna Shah of Migrants' Rights Network, said the guide was a welcome addition for practitioners in the sector working to challenge the hostile environment.