UK Border Agency
In a few weeks, on 1 February, my best friend will be given a new responsibility by the UK government: guarding the UK border. Though this sounds like a daunting task, the way the government has set things up, he will not have to give up his current job as a digital editor to carry it out. He can do it as he goes about his day–to-day life. Nonetheless, being quite critical of the government’s immigration policy, immigration control is not a responsibility he would have assumed of his own accord. So how did he end up in this situation?
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.
Victims of exploitative employers or ‘illegal workers’ who should be thrown out the country? Government anti-slavery plans are in danger of failing unless this dangerous ambiguity is addressed. Two bits of news last week will be seen as unwelcome by all those who think the Modern Slavery Act will have finally crack the problem of exploited labour. The first comes from information that the Edmonton MP, Kate Osamor, managed to dig out from the Home Office after around a round of relentless questioning back in October. In queries put to the government’s new Modern Slavery Minister, Karen Bradley, Osamor sought information on the numbers of people identified as victims of forced labour and who had been granted a safe haven.
The efforts of the UK government to get fresh immigration legislation on the statute book have been strangely under-reported in the UK media. Those in the know about the impact of new laws and regulations have been keen to flag up its dangers but the real public debate about its consequences has yet to begin. The debate during the second reading in the Commons on 13th October followed predictable lines of argument, with the official opposition affirming its commitment to tough immigration controls that would bear down on so-called illegal immigration. At the same time it declined to support the measure on the grounds that the approach to achieving this end set out in the Bill would have the effect of ‘reducing social cohesion’, causing hardship to children and increasing discrimination against ethnic minorities.
The outcome of the meeting of EU heads of government in Brussels last Thursday has been widely criticised for the inadequacy of its response to the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean. Rather than address the most pressing question on how to arrest the escalating refugee death toll on the high seas the suspicion is that the authorities are using it is an opportunity to return to ‘Fortress Europe’ strategy which envisions the continent sealing itself from the migration pressures being generated across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asian regions.