Make your voice heard in the Immigration Bill

The 2015 immigration bill is now ready for its third reading in Parliament. Anyone looking forward to the introduction of greater safeguards in the committee stage will be sourly disappointed. After 16 sittings in the house of commons, we could still be left with a bill which will lead to a rise in xenophobia and exclusion, push illegality underground and criminalise the most vulnerable in society. However there is still time to make our voices heard!

With all the news in the press concerned with migration, refugees and borders, don’t be surprised if you have heard very little about this piece of legislation which many fear will encourage overt racism. The reporting on this bill has been minimal although its effects will be devastating. However, there has been grassroots movements organising to resist the worst impacts of the bill, turn it into an opportunity to make some much needed, positive changes and this needs to continue!

Here’s what Theresa May has to say about the bill:

The proposed 12 month prison sentence for those working with the wrong papers will do little to stop the exploitation of those with no money and very few rights. What it will do, is push this sector further underground and out of sight. This will mean that vulnerable individuals will be under greater threat of exploitation and poorer regulation. Changes to ‘right to rent’ mean that landlords face the risk of three years imprisonment. As a result of the confusion behind home office bureaucracy, some landlords will be put off from taking ‘foreign’ tenants regardless of legal status. We are already hearing reports of landlords turning away potential tenants with foreign accents. This will not only affect migrants, but also the whole of society. A trial in the west midlands has already found that landlords are more likely to rent to white tenants in order to avoid ‘red tape’.

On top of this, the bill also exports the power of immigration officers to landlords, banks and into the realm of driving licences. The criminalisation of migrants and asylum seekers will be furthered by immigration and police officers being given privileges allowing them to perform  ‘stop and search’ on they believe is driving without lawful residence in the UK. Of course we know that such officers will have to prove ‘reasonable grounds’ for this stop and search in order to avoid racial profiling. Apparently the statistics that black people are 17.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched on the streets in some areas of the UK, despite also needing ‘reasonable grounds’, is not enough to prove that racial profiling does exist in the the UK police force and ‘stop and search’ exacerbates it.

The Bill calls for the creation of Director of Labour Market Enforcement whose duty it is to create a response strategy towards non-compliance in the labour market. The creation of this position could be beneficial of this individual is trained and well informed on the complexities behind irregular migrants and forced migration. As such, we must ask the government: How will the director be chosen? What pre-requisites in terms of experience and training will the director have to have? Here is an opportunity to inject some expert knowledge into Parliament which cannot be ignored.

What would we call for, if we had the floor of the House of Commons next week? The Forum’s members for a long time have been speaking out about the injustice of indefinite detention, campaigning in the run up to the General Election and speaking in front of two thousand people and leading party representatives. We have shared our stories, lobbied our MPs and attended debates in the House of Commons. A proposed amendment to the Bill, Amendment 32, is calling for a 28-day time limit. This is our chance to win the change we have called for.

We still have time to make our voices heard – writing to your MP can really make a difference, now more than ever! Ask them to attend the debate, and vote for amendments to ensure that this bill does not help to increase destitution and racism, but instead protects the most vulnerable. This is an important Bill and we must use this opportunity to organise and ensure that our MPs are working for us!

I urge you to re-post this blog and most importantly to write to your MP to share your concerns:

Please follow this link to see an example letter you could use in order to make sure your MP attends the third reading of the Immigration Bill on Tuesday 1st December and votes for a system that protects the vulnerable and upholds the dignity of migrant and refugees.



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