UNHCR backs TUC concerns on Immigration Bill
The Guardian reports today on a confidential briefing produced for MPs by the office of the UN High Commission for Refugees, which slams the Government’s Immigration Bill. The UNHCR’s concerns echo those expressed by the TUC when the Government’s proposals were first announced, and which the detail of the Bill has done nothing to allay.
The Bill will turn GPs, landlords and others into unpaid border guards, will increase discrimination against ethnic minorities, and could lead to increased homelessness, illness and exploitation.
Of course, this is not necessarily contrary to Government intentions. We now know that many of the Government’s immigration policies and announcements are not even intended to deliver their stated intentions, but simply to make like difficult for immigrants whether genuine or fraudulent, or just to ‘sound tough’, thus shoring up a Conservative vote crumbling away to UKIP.
The UNHCR report agrees with TUC concerns that faced with a requirement to check the immigration status of potential patients and tenants, many GPs and landlords will baulk at the extra paperwork (do you know how you’d go about finding out whether someone was in the country legally, or, even more complex, distinguish between someone here on a temporary visa from someone with indefinite leave to remain). Some will respond by asking searching and invasive questions of everyone who doesn’t meet their (untutored) definition of ‘British’. Others will simply avoid allowing such people near their services. And some will no doubt exploit the situation, by charging higher rents to people who might have their access to rented accommodation restricted.
There are undoubtedly measures that need to be taken to ensure that the immigration system in Britain is better managed. We need to crack down on exploitation by employers and landlords, ensure that public services are able to address the needs of fast-growing populations in particular areas, and take initiatives that will promote integration such as making language lessons easily accessible.
But an intervention by the UNHCR is unlikely to have the desired impact on Government policy: it will simply provide more outrage fodder for the xenophobics on the right who will respond by defending Government policy against yet another attack from abroad (although they appear to have no worries about allowing foreign companies to buy out British industries, or take extra powers over government policy through Investor-State Dispute Settlement systems in trade deals: the only good foreigner appears to be a corporate foreigner!)
So, far better to seek out the GPs, landlords and employers who will be imposed on by these measures, or the British people likely to be disadvantaged by these moves, and make sure that politicians hear their voices.