Proposed new government legislation in the shape of the Immigration Bill, which receives its second reading before Parliament tomorrow, will have the effect of further whipping up an already xenophobic climate in the UK and exacerbating racial tensions.
Among the measures proposed in the bill are for landlords to ensure that tenants are legally resident in the UK, for temporary migrants to pay a levy in order to access NHS services, and a reduction in the number of grounds on which migrants can appeal deportation.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission believes that in addition to attenuating the essential human rights of immigrants the legislation will also play into the hands of racists whose aim is to deny basic rights and services to immigrants.
Expecting NHS staff, landlords and bank workers to act as front-line immigration officers is likely to impact negatively on ethnic/religious minorities and will inevitably lead to profiling of those perceived to be immigrants.
It is unlikely that a well-spoken white middle-class male will be required to show any documents when renting a property, but they are likely to be asked of a non-white immigrant speaking in a foreign accent. The housing measure is also likely to lead to landlords closing the door on foreign applicants for fear of breaking laws they do not understand or are not trained to enforce.
Some of the measures don’t even make economic sense. In 2011-12, the NHS officially spent £33m on treating foreign nationals, £21m of which was recovered. However according to the Royal College of GPs the cost of administering the new bill will be £500m, and that’s without taking into account the additional costs likely to be incurred from temporary migrants deferring treatment to avoid paying the levy.
In the absence of any public benefit rationale, IHRC believes that the proposed legislation is not designed to curb illegal immigration and abuse of public services but rather it is a populist and punitive bill aimed at keeping up with the more popular, more racist, immigration stance of UKIP.
“At any time, let alone a time of austerity, it is immoral for a government to spend money just to feed the xenophobia of the likes of UKIP” said IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh. “We would urge the government to not waste money and to hold on to the British values of fairness and justice.”
Earlier this month the government was told to remove its controversial immigration van from the streets because it breached advertising standards. The van, which told illegal immigrants to “go home” was adjudged to have carried misleading information. Last week the government again came under fire for using text messages to tell suspected illegal immigrants to contact the Home Office. The messages, it seems, also went out to ethnic minority citizens who have long held British nationality.
Notes to Editors
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