There is no concrete proof that the policy actually works. Only that it harms vulnerable men, women and childrenby Colin Yeo / February 13, 2019 / Leave a comment
The “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants announced by Theresa May in an interview in 2012 is much more than merely nasty or unpleasant, although it certainly is those things. It takes a policy developed to address terrorism and serious crime and extends it to illegal immigration and, soon, to those EU citizens who miss the deadline to apply for settled status. Even after Windrush the hostile environment is not going away. But where did it come from?
The idea of a “hostile environment” can be traced back to the early 2000s, when steps were taken to make life difficult for terrorists and serious and organised criminals by constraining their access to finance. This was achieved by forcing banks and others to conduct routine checks on account holders and money transfers. Direct pressure in the form of arrest and conviction was insufficient; indirect pressure applied through third parties was also thought necessary.
A White Paper in 2007 signalled that the Home Office wanted to apply similar policies to address illegal immigration, but balanced by making the rules simpler and easier to comply with for lawful migrants. The language of “hostility” was studiously avoided at that time. Little seems to have been done until May took the reins as Home Secretary, at which point a full spectrum crusade was launched. Employers were already encouraged to conduct immigration checks but fines for employing an illegal worker were increased to £20,000 and enforcement activity was ramped up. The Immigration Act 2014 introduced similar rules for landlords, banks, building societies, the DVLA and rules on access to public services, particularly the NHS, were toughened. New data sharing arrangements between government departments and public services, including the NHS and schools, were introduced. Meanwhile, the immigration rules had become more complex rather than simpler and fees for applications had shot up so that some cost over £2,000 per person.
Immigration checks were transformed over the space of a two or three year period from something conducted at the border by trained officials to an everyday experience of citizen-on-citizen checks. No new white paper heralded this revolution, no consultation had been conducted and virtually no research commissioned on what the impact might be.
There are two fundamental flaws that lie at the heart of this system of outsourced immigration controls. The first is that policy makers have conflated “illegal” with “undocumented.” Famously, some members of…