Joint Council on Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has criticised the new immigration measures announced in the Queen’s Speech.
The government said landlords would be required to check immigration status of their tenants.
For a government who have declared themselves against red tape this policy is quite remarkable, JCWI said. To ask landlords to check immigration status of any prospective tenant will lead to discriminatory practices, a return to the days of “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish” but without the signs, JCWI said.
The measure will make migrants, regardless of their immigration status, be treated with suspicion and denied accommodation, JCWI said. According to JCWI, this has already happened through discrimination, and will be compounded through this legislation. Reminding the government that landlords are no border guards, JCWI said this infringement into rented accommodation is fraught with potential problems.
The government is also considering restricting immigrants’ access healthcare. JCWI said this measure will significantly increase red tape in the NHS, with all patients being asked to provide ID to get treatment.
JCWI hopes that the new measure will not lead to people being denied NHS treatment. It will however, lead to an increase in bureaucracy and will not be cost efficient, JCWI said.
Another measure the government is working on will restrict immigrants’ access to benefits.
JCWI pointed out that immigrants claim less benefits than UK nationals. According to Government (DWP) figures for the financial year ending in 2011, 6.6 per cent of EU migrants with a National Insurance (NI) number were on out of work benefits within six months of having applied for a NI number. This compares with 16.6% of British nationals.
JCWI accused the government and parts of the media of propagating the myth that many immigrants have come to the UK to lounge about on free hand-outs, whereas the reality is that most immigrants are hardworking and are here to earn as much money as they can.
JCWI also criticised the government’s move to restrict people’s access to legal aid. It is often the case that people arriving in the UK need assistance in legal cases, JCWI said. Some may be illegally detained by UKBA and need representation. Allowing new immigrants access to justice is the only check there is on public bodies such as UKBA which has an appalling record in this field, JCWI said.
In general, people who are new to the country are more vulnerable and likely to be exploited or discriminated against – this is a denial of justice to those who need it most, JCWI noted.
“This is a vicious mix of red tape and denial of services and justice designed to appease tabloid editors, and to further exasperate public anxiety,” Habib Rahman, Chief Exec of JCWI said. “This will serve to unnecessarily criminalise people in pursuit of a meaningless attack on migrants and foreign nationals. The Government is playing politics by introducing these discriminatory policies – we will see people suffer as a result. We will see the cost of bureaucracy climb significantly as the Government impose appalling measures in the hope of a little popularity.”