Happy New Year! And here are five immigration challenges for 2016
Getting the UK to pull its weight in Europe’s refugee crisis
With major conflicts continuing to rage across the Middle East, added to by streams of people converging on the region from the war-torn areas of the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan, it is absolutely clear that this is an issue that will continue to dominate the news headline over the coming year.
Much support has been going out from the UK to the areas where refugees are congregating, from the Greek island of Lesvos which is currently the main point of arrival, to the closer camp in the Calais ‘jungle.’ This is likely to continue as solidarity actions originating in many areas intertwine with one another and become more robust mediums of support. The Facebook group CalAid is a good place to head to follow these developments with to regard Calais, and Refugees Welcome – Greece for what is happening in there.
Refugee Week will be taking place between 20-26 June and it might be useful to think on how we can use the build up to this important period of activity in ways which will amplify the demands on the UK government to play its role in helping to tackle this European crisis.
The immediate goal has to be to get the government to commit to participation in the EU scheme to relocate 160,000 refugees from the regions where they are entering the UK over a two year period. The formula which the European Commission has used to calculate the basis for relocation suggests that the UK should take somewhere between 30-40,000 people. So far the government has refused to take any from this source, instead proclaiming its own plan to accept at total of 20,000 over five years from refugee camps in the Middle East as an acceptable alternative.
It isn’t. The theme for campaigning on behalf of people fleeing conflict in 2016 has to be that refugees are welcome here. And the UK has to make an offer to accept a much bigger proportion of the people who have fled to Europe.
Defending free movement as the EU referendum debate rages
A principled defence of the right of free movement within the EU will be certainly needed this year.
The short shrift that the prime minister seems to be getting from other heads of government as he tours their capitals asking for support for the UK’s reform demands is increasing the possibility that the UK referendum on EU membership will take place possibly as soon as the summer or autumn of this year.
MRN aims to challenge the claims that great harm is coming from the exercise of free movement. These claims play a central part in the anti-migration push to curtail these rights as the price for the UK’s continuing membership.
Well-informed analysts and commentators from across the political spectrum have found this a strained argument at best, with the clearest evidence being that the EU migration for the past decade has benefited the UK by promoting growth prior to the crash in 2008, and recovery since.
Recent polling has shown that the right to freedom of movement is actually more popular amongst the public than is often thought, with 64% of British people saying that it is a good thing.
We need politicians to challenge the idea that the exercise of the right of free movement is a good reason to vote to leave the EU in the referendum. We also need to think hard in our campaigns about how we can get them to do that.
Supporting local communities as new immigration legislation rolls out
Amongst the most worrying of the measures are the provisions which require private sector landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants. After what has been criticised as a grossly inadequate pilot scheme run in the West Midlands in 2015 the government has decided that landlords in the rest of the England and Wales will have to start implementing the checks from 1 February.
This is just the first of a whole series of measures aimed at creating a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants and the communities they live. The government has stated this is the core purpose of its recent legislation. The effect of the new laws on private tenancies means that anyone believed by landlords to have conditions attached to their right to reside in the UK will find it more difficult to get somewhere to rent from a private landlord.
It will be crucial to record evidence of the discriminatory impact of the new measures as soon as they come into effect. We will be working with colleagues around the country in the weeks and months after 1 February to collect this information and to use it as the basis for a campaigning strategy to challenge the divisive effects of the law.
Family reunion rights: hope for the best from the Supreme Court - but battle on
Families have been locked in battle with the government over the effects of the immigration rule changes brought into effect in July 2012. The long human rights struggle through the courts to challenge the high income threshold set for UK-based sponsors will reach its climax in the Supreme Court in late February.
It looks as though a range of issues are going to be considered at the same time, from the effect of English language requirements through to the hardship and heartache which the obligation for sponsors to be earning £18,600 a year (more if there are children) is causing to those who are simply trying to exercise the right to family life.
The divided family support group, BritCits, has built a coalition of people affected by the rules and their supporters over the past several years. It has collected and set out the evidence of the hardship that has been caused to people prevented from living here with their loved ones.
As is always the case with legal challenges it is difficult to be absolutely confident that the courts will accept the arguments about the violation of the human right to family life. But campaigners will approach the hearing date hopeful that they will make progress in sheer uncompromising rigidity with which the Home Office approaches this matter. Expect news of activities to promote discussion about immigration and the right to family life as we get nearer to the hearing date.
Winning the 28 day limit to immigration detention
Our hats of here to the great work done by the Time4aTimeLimit campaign being run by the Detention Forum. It has done remarkable work to build a strong coalition of supporters that extends from the civil liberty groups through to MPs of all parties to tackle the government’s intransigent belief that it should have unfettered power to hold people in detention for unlimited periods .
The campaign continues to throw out ideas on how to advance the argument for a 28 -time limit on immigration detention. You can follow these on the Detention Forum website or the #Time4aTimeLimit Twitter hashtag. Follow them and give support when the campaign calls for it!
So, that’s our take on what is going to be important in campaigns for the rights of migrants during the course of 2016. Have we got this right?
Let us know what you think!