The provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 are now rapidly rolling out, stripping many important rights from migrants and refugees as they do so. The English or Welsh language requirements for public sector workers came into force on 21 November. A Code of Practice directed to public sector employers sets out what is expected from them. The workers who will need to meet these standards of language are all staff who work in customer-facing roles including permanent and fixed-term employees, apprentices, self-employed contractors, agency temps, police officers and service personnel.
The collection of nationality and country of birth data in schools and nurseries was a change in policy announced without much fanfare last spring. The government intended to link this new data to other information such as address and ethnicity that is held in the National Pupil Database (NPD). The NPD contains the records of around 20 million people. The data is never deleted, and identifiable information on individual pupils is accessible to the Home Office, the police, and third parties such as researchers and the press.
The idea of a regional visa is currently the subject of much discussion after a number of years in which it was discounted as impractical.
The #1DayWithUs initiative that emerged from journalist Matt Carr’s Facebook post in response to the rhetoric at the Conservative Party conference in October is the most hopeful sign yet that resistance to the planned actions to strip millions of migrants of their rights is building up. From the vague idea that some sort of protest should be mounted, it is now taking the form of a definite plan to call for actions to support migrants right across the UK.
The referendum vote in favour of Brexit has encouraged the sense that the UK is at ‘year zero’ when it comes to many areas of social and economic policy. Everything that has gone before can be regarded as de facto scrapped and the future is there to be seized by those with the boldest imaginations and brightest visions of just what may be possible.
As you read this CRS police squads, acting on French government orders, will once again be destroying the make-shift homes and personal property of the 9000 people who are trying to survive in the Calais refugee camp. They have returned to this task sporadically over the years. In April 2009 a determined effort to close the camp led to the arrest of 109, with bulldozers destroying the tents of around 800 refugees.
If we take the not uncontroversial step of assuming that the way people voted in the referendum serves as a reasonable proxy for judging their view on immigration, then at least one intriguing question arises. Why does the city of Sunderland in England feel so differently about these matters than Glasgow? In June’s referendum voters in English cities voted for Brexit by 61% to 39%. Glasgow voted 67% in favour of remaining, with 33% wanting out. Why the difference? According to a North East Strategic Migration Partnership profile, with ‘people born abroad’ making up only 3% of the city’s population at the time of the last census, Sunderland has one of the lowest rates of inward migration of any major urban area in the UK.
The immigration policies which Theresa May and her home secretary, Amber Rudd, revealed at the Conservative party conference last week seem to have got short shrift from just about everyone.
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Labour conference last week threw a large stone into the otherwise undisturbed waters of the mainstream political consensus on immigration. His refusal to join the chorus of calls for even more draconian controls over the right to move across borders is seen by some as more evidence of how out of touch he is with the public mood.
Labour’s annual conference, has at least (surely!) settled the matter of who is going to be leading it up until the next general election – whenever that might be. Many other issues remain unresolved, including the one which has most vexed such a large part of its traditional working class support base – immigration. The arguments around the role that immigration has played in eroding support for Labour have been gone through too many times to need repetition here. In brief, I should mention that there is a belief that the large-scale migration to the UK after 2004 has had a negative impact on the wages and working conditions of at least a significant segment of the working class as well as the more general sense that it has all happen just too fast.
With news programmes leading this morning on PM Theresa May’s intention to make a big, bold speech to the UN high level summit on migration in New York hopes might be raised that something new is going to be said. After all, Mrs May is just the person to say it. Her long period in office as the UK’s home secretary has seen her struggling with the realities of migration as it takes place in the world today and she must have learnt a great deal since 2010 when she was confident that the movement of people into the country could be reduced to the ‘tens of thousands’. Unfortunately it seems that she seems to be intent on returning to a script that Tony Blair tried delivering to gatherings of international leaders back in the early ‘noughties.
The cooperation of the management of Byron Hamburger’s with Home Office immigration enforcement officers in a sting operation earlier in the summer symbolises everything that can go wrong for migrant workers when employment law and immigration policy merge. For many people with deep inside knowledge about the vulnerable position of migrants in the UK today, the key issues are unfair immigration regulations and harsh exploitation of workers. The type of collaboration with enforcement measures that the Home Office expects from employers when it comes to policing their workforces adds to the risks for migrant workers today.
The High Level Summit (HLS) taking place at the United Nations in New York on 19 September is a timely reminder that immigration is not just an issue that affects the UK, but involves the whole world. The discussion on that day, involving “heads of state, government and high representatives” of the UN’s members will focus on safety and dignity in policies which address “large movements of refugees and migrants”.
The report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR) in mid-August which found evidence of 'entrenched' race inequality in many areas, including education and health has provided the basis for the government’s latest, and to some a rather surprising initiative.