PLANS to tighten immigration rules could result in the stigmatisation of genuine refugees, create a “climate of ethnic profiling” and make it more difficult for legal migrants to find housing and integrate in the UK, the United Nations refugee agency has warned.
The Immigration Bill, currently going through Parliament, will make landlords liable to fines if they rent homes to illegal immigrants and bar banks from opening accounts for migrants without the right to stay in the UK.
Temporary immigrants will be required to contribute to the cost of services such as the NHS and reduce rights to appeal against the rejection of asylum claims.
In a letter to MPs, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, warned legal asylum-seekers and refugees may be caught up in the changes.
Landlords will face bureaucratic burdens from the new requirement to check the immigration status of tenants and may not be able correctly to interpret documents provided to them, leading to the denial of housing to people in need, he warned.
Mr Guterres wrote: “The provisions of the bill appear likely to result in asylum seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection being stigmatised in the public mind and in their being denied access to housing or bank accounts. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is concerned that if introduced, such measures could contribute towards a climate of misunderstanding and ethnic profiling that could undermine the longer-term prospects for integration of such persons and prove detrimental to social cohesion.
“These challenges may have unintended consequences, such as the denial of housing and other services to asylum seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection that result in their marginalisation and inhibit their integration in the United Kingdom.”
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said in October that the Bill would “stop migrants abusing public services to which they are not entitled, reduce the pull factors which draw illegal immigrants to the UK and make it easier to remove people who should not be here”.
Meanwhile Labour yesterday called for hundreds of Syrian refugees fleeing its civil war to be given refuge in the UK.
The United Nations has called on the international community to offer humanitarian aid for refugees, but also resettlement opportunities outside the country, and Labour is urging the Government to accept 400-500 Syrians, including torture victims, women and girls at high risk and people with family links to the UK.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that Britain join some 16 nations which have agreed to allow a total of more than 10,000 Syrians to move to their countries.
She said: “We should be rightly proud of our humanitarian aid effort and the generosity of the British people. But we should also do our part, alongside other countries within the UN’s programme, to provide a safe haven for some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees fleeing this murderous conflict.
“The British Government cannot turn its back on these people. It is our moral duty to respond to the UN’s call for help for Syrian refugees – just as our country has helped those fleeing persecution for hundreds of years.”
But Ministers insist that Britain can best help by providing funds to assist those affected.
In a letter to the Labour MP Meg Hillier, Mr Harper said: “I do not oppose other states choosing to offer humanitarian admission or resettlement to displaced Syrians. However, in my view, this should not be the focus of activity at present and is not the best way for the UK to make a difference.”