migrant community groups
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.
To say 2015 has been a challenging year all those community organisations, campaign groups, faith movements, trade unions and others working to support the rights of migrants and refugees would be to understate all that happened during the past twelve months. MRN has worked hard to record all the issues that migrant community activists and human rights campaigners have had to face up to over this time. As you would expect, the drama of the refugee crisis on the south eastern border of Europe and the ‘jungle’ camp in Calais have been prominent in the news items and blogs we have posted. Closer to home, our virtually weekly commentary on all the fresh legislation being pushed through Parliament has tried to make sense of the conflicting impulses that produce the Modern Slavery Act on one hand and the ‘hostile environment’ of the Immigration Act and the current Immigration Bill on the other.
December’s changes to the electoral register represent a huge civil rights issue for everyone in this country, especially for migrant communities. In November, the UK government cut the transition period for the new electoral registration (IER) system. Many were hopeful that the government would listen to its own independent expert body and extend the date to December 2016. This would have allowed local authorities to properly inform people of the need to get themselves on the register. Unsurprisingly, the proposal was not accepted leaving at least 1.9 million people at risk of losing their right to vote if not registered by the 1 December 2015.
The Immigration Bill proposes changes that extend powers to police our communities which now take in landlords and financial institutions. It also proposes a new labour market enforcement director who will be required to work with immigration enforcement - a mandate that confuses the protection of workers’ rights with the enforcement of immigration control. Broad Coalition A broad coalition of groups concerned with human rights, civil liberties, the rule of law and the social and economic rights of migrants has begun to assemble. It is working hard to lobby for changes to the most worrying aspects of the proposed legislation.
In a recent article over at Public Finance Neil Merrick casts a sympathetic eye over the plight of local authorities who are being expected to pick up more and more of the mess caused by central government cuts even though their own budgets are stretched thin. Many migrants with the legal right to live and work in the UK have a no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition imposed on them by central government. This means that if they become unemployed, or are in serious need because the income they receive is too low, or the cost of their housing increases, they have no access to any benefits.