The ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants now extends to MP surgeries – since 2012, 723 people have been reported by their MPs to the Home Office for immigration enforcement. This is deeply concerning and unjust, given the crucial support MPs can provide in helping people navigate our notoriously dysfunctional immigration system, and leaves many migrants fearful of approaching their MP for help.
Today, as part of our Migrants Organise and Global Justice Now #MPsNotBorderGuards campaign, we’ve written to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to express our concerns. We’re joined by 14 other migrant organisations, including the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Doctors of the World and Bail for Immigration Detainees among others.
Join with us to stop this betrayal of trust by writing to your MP to ask them to publicly pledge not to report their constituents to the Home Office.
Every year MPs are voluntarily turning over hundreds of their own constituents to immigration officials. In a democratic society, this is unacceptable practice – everyone should have the right to safely meet with their member of parliament and expect representation without fear of reprisal. MPs surgeries should be safe spaces for us all – not arms of the border regime.
People approach their MPs for support, often as a last resort in a time of need. Migrants often need assistance and advice with their immigration, visas or citizenship applications. MPs are in a position of trust and authority, and it is a grotesque breach of that trust to inform on people who need their support to the Home Office, a department whose dysfunctional procedures have resulted in considerable injustice towards hundreds of thousands of people living in the UK, including the recent Windrush cases.
“The demand that MPs represent all their constituents equally is a basic principle of how Parliament works,” says Akram Salhab, Campaigns and Advocacy Officer here at Migrants Organise. “Sadly, this is yet another pillar of our democracy that has been sacrificed at the altar of the Government’s Hostile Environment policies”
“Many migrants are now afraid of approaching their MPs lest their reaching out for advice and support be used to detain and deport them. All political parties, whether in Government or not, can end this practice today by instructing their MPs not to share their constituent’s data for immigration enforcement purposes.”
Satbir Singh, Chief Executive of Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, says: “Everyone has the right to seek advice from their MPs in a confidential and safe environment. Parliament must clarify whether passing constituent data to immigration enforcement breaches data protection. It must also explain to the country, under what circumstances is this practice taking place?”
“MPs should not be taking it upon themselves to act as “border guards”, betraying the trust of their constituents and perpetuating a culture of hostility towards migrants. Have we not learnt anything from the scandal and tragedy of Windrush? MPs acting as border guards puts highly vulnerable people at risk, driving them further underground and into the shadows.”
Under the #MPsNotBorderGuards pledge, MPs commit to represent and advocate for all their constituents, regardless of immigration status, in order to maintain their constituency surgeries as a safe space for migrants. To date, the pledge has been signed by more than 100 MPs from all political parties, including shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott.
Take action today by writing to your MP to ask them to sign the public pledge and commit to not reporting their constituents to the Home Office for immigration enforcement. All MPs should provide fair and just representation for everyone living in their constituency, whatever their immigration status. We need our MPs to lead by example and take a stand to ensure this country, and our democratic system, is a welcome and safe place for all.
1. The full list of signatories to the letter sent to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow is: Migrants Organise, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Doctors of the World, Asylum Matters, Bail for Immigration Detainees, Right 2 Work UK, Right to Remain, Project 17, Women for Refugee Women, Unity Project, Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Migrants Resource Centre/Asylum Aid, Praxis Community Projects, Refuweegee
2. Under the MPs Not Border Guards pledge, MPs commit to represent and advocate for all their constituents, regardless of immigration status, in order to maintain their constituency surgeries as a safe space for migrants. The list of MPs who have signed the pledge is available at: www.globaljustice.org.uk/pledge