migrant community groups
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.
The news that projections for economic growth for the period ahead are being upgraded because of expectations that net immigration will continue at rates well above the targets set by government is consistent with all the views that have been coming from expert commentators in recent months.
Europe’s efforts to address what is so often presented as an immigration crisis at its external borders continue to push and pull is various contrary directions. At some points the European Union likes to emphasis its capacity to enforce the policing and management of movement across borders, but at others the maintenance of the continent’s reputation as a region of human rights. It shouldn’t be doubted that it takes both of these roles seriously and continues to hold out the hope that, through dialogue and negotiation, a way will be found which allows border and immigration controls to be squared with fair treatment and a degree of justice for those who are seeking entry to the countries which are a part of the Union.