Home Office needs reform to avoid a second Windrush scandal, thinktank report says
The “hostile environment” group of policies, which were introduced by the then Home Secretary Theresa May in the coalition government in 2012, were designed to discourage people settling in the UK without leave to remain.
They include access to services such as the NHS or housing being restricted if immigrants cannot prove their legal right to remain in the UK.
The policies have attracted much criticism from campaigners since their introduction, and a UN expert last year called for the policies to be abandoned saying they had contributed towards xenophobia in the UK.
The IPPR thinktank has today also called for an end to the policy and for “root and branch” reform to “rehabilitate” the Home Office.
Its new report, Beyond The Hostile Environment, found that the responsibility for checking immigration status of individuals has fallen disproportionately on untrained frontline workers and landlords, which it says potentially puts people at risk of racial discrimination and could lead to people who have legal right to remain in the UK being mistakenly penalised.
Some people in need of medical or police support haven’t sought it because of fears their immigration status will be queried by doctors or police, the IPPR said.
The thinktank is now calling on the Home Office to install a new body tasked with protecting migrant rights, and to ensure that the government leads all immigrations checks rather than “out-sourcing” them to healthcare workers and landlords.
They are also calling for an overhaul of the immigration service to provide support particularly for vulnerable migrants at risk of trafficking, modern slavery, and domestic abuse.
Marley Morris, IPPR Associate Director, said: “As our research and the findings of other reviews have revealed, the immigration enforcement system in the UK is in need of root and branch reform.
“Not only has the hostile environment precipitated the Windrush Scandal, but it has also failed to even achieve its own stated aims of encouraging individuals to voluntarily leave.
“To learn the lessons from the Windrush scandal, the home secretary should take the opportunity to tackle head-on the adverse impacts of the hostile environment and overhaul the Home Office directorate responsible for its enforcement.”
In 2018 the government commissioned the independent Windrush Lessons Learned Review after people with a right to live in the UK were wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean.
It called for Home Office ministers to admit that serious harm was inflicted on people who are British and to provide an "unqualified apology" to those affected and the wider black African-Caribbean community.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
“We are determined to right the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation and make amends for the institutional failings they faced from successive governments.
“The Home Secretary has apologised unreservedly for their treatment and is leading an unprecedented programme of change to build a Home Office that serves every part of the community.
“We have accepted the important findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review including a full review of the compliant environment policy.
“We use a wide range of interventions to deter non-compliance, support good behaviour and take enforcement action where necessary to remove those here unlawfully, to help safeguard the vulnerable and protect the public.”