The Immigration Bill: hostility won’t tackle austerity
Last week Teresa May announced Government policies to create a ‘hostile environment’ for undocumented migrants with the launch of the Immigration Bill. If this Bill becomes law, it would introduce charges for non-EU migrants to use the NHS and would introduce sweeping document checks across society – for landlords, at banks, for those wishing to take their driving test.
The thinking behind the bill is as deluded as it is ugly.
First – the delusions:
The government claims a clampdown on migrants’ use of services is needed because non-EU migrants come to the UK to use the health service as ‘health tourists’ – however there is a complete lack of evidence of this with unpaid NHS charges for overseas visitors only making up 0.01% of NHS costs. Health tourism is a myth for EU migrants too as Richard Exell blogged yesterday on Touchstone.
The government also implies that denying undocumented migrants services will somehow make them disappear. It won’t – it will simply drive an already vulnerable group of workers into destitution and certain exploitation at the hands of black market landlords, backstreet doctors and money lenders.
Second – the ugly truth: the Immigration Bill doesn’t just make one group in society more vulnerable but will threaten us all.
The intention of the Bill is to introduce document checks across the NHS, the housing market, the banking system and the DVLA. The bureaucratic authoritarianism hinted at in the Bill’s proposals even spooked the right-wing press: the Daily Mail featured a bank customer with their head in their hands at the thought of the checks they would be forced to undergo under the new measures.
Employers are worried about the implication of the Bill too – the Director-General of the Institute of Directors spoke on the World at One about the dangerous signals the Bill sent out and worried people would be less likely to do business with Britain as they felt unwelcome (though Osborne is doing his best to appease rich Chinese people planning to visit the UK).
Preventing migrants from using the health service will endanger public health and cost the NHS even more at a time when it is already reeling from having to make £20 billion efficiency savings.
Importantly, the Immigration Bill will also ramp up the level of discrimination against anyone who doesn’t ‘look’ or ‘sound’ British. These are most likely to be subject to document checks, as we wrote our submission to the Department of Health plans to charge migrants to use the NHS . The Runnymede Trust has already shown there is racial discrimination in the housing market, this Bill will only make the situation worse. No wonder Shami Chakrabarti , director of Liberty, called it a ‘race relations nightmare.’
The Tories have been worrying openly that these measures are driving any non-white voters away from the Tories. They should also worry about the fact they have failed to tackle the concern of all voters who have seen their pay packets shrinking and the cost of living going up. TUC research shows that the poorest half of the population receives just 12p in every pound of UK GDP. We need a government to invest in the economy and public sector, and commit to fair pay and equal treatment for all workers, migrant and non-migrant. Yet this week Teresa May offered only empty cupboards and hostile streets, smiling on the Daybreak sofa all the while.