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. 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, amongst others.
We’ve written to the House of Commons to draw attention to the fact that every year, MPs are turning over hundreds of constituents to immigration officials. In a democratic society, this is an unacceptable practice. Everyone should have the right to safely meet their member of parliament and expect representation without fear of being detained or deported.
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.
See below for the full letter that we’ve sent to the Speaker of the House of Commons, and support our campaign today by writing to your MP to ask them to sign the public pledge and commit to not report 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.
Dear The Rt Hon John Bercow, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons,
We are writing to you urgently, as organisations working with migrant communities, on an issue of utmost importance related to the integrity and reputation of Parliament and our democracy.
A recent Parliamentary Question revealed that since 2012, 723 vulnerable migrants have been reported by their MPs to the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes. Many of those reported will have been vulnerable migrants, approaching their MP in the hope of getting support for their immigration cases. Instead of finding assistance, care and discretion – the conduct expected of an MP – these individuals are having their trust betrayed.
It is common practice for MPs to aid constituents in chasing delayed Home Office responses and lost documentation, and call on the Home Office to rectify errors. Often, with appeal routes removed, and the Home Office effectively unaccountable to individual applicants, having a powerful voice on one’s side can be life changing. It is vital that people affected by the immigration system and the hostile environment can seek help from their parliamentary representatives. As organisations supporting migrants and refugees, we have, until now, regularly advised our service users to contact their MPs where necessary.
MPs have a responsibility to advocate for all their constituents, regardless of immigration status. To report constituents to the Home Office in the present circumstances is a fundamental breach of trust. Many migrants are now fearful of contacting their MP, effectively excluding them from democratic representation.
This revelation must be considered alongside the effect of the hostile environment, which has been demonstrated by the Windrush scandal to wrongly treat people as immigration offenders, strip them of their rights, and leave them destitute. When combined with the Home Office’s long history of poor decision making, and a lack of legal aid for immigration cases, many people have little choice but to approach their own MP to seek clarity on their immigration cases.
As part of a recent campaign, more than 100 MPs have pledged to represent and advocate for all their constituents, regardless of immigration status. These MPs have confirmed that their constituency surgeries are safe places for all to receive advice, and that correspondence will be treated in accordance with the handling of sensitive data. However, this still leaves many thousands of others living outside these constituencies without representation. This exclusion fundamentally undermines our democracy, the standing of Parliament and trust in individual MPs.
We are calling on you as Speaker of the House of Commons to act to immediately remedy the situation and protect those thousands of individuals that find themselves with nowhere to turn. We ask that you raise this issue in the house at the earliest opportunity, and request that Party Whips instruct their MPs to immediately cease the practice.
At the present time, we will no longer be able to advise our service users and clients that their MP is an appropriate individual from whom to seek assistance, unless they have signed the above pledge. The list of MPs who have signed the pledge and whose surgeries are safe for their constituents can be found at globaljustice.org.uk/pledge. We ask that you make this pledge and its principles known to MPs and encourage them to sign it.
- Zrinka Bralo (CEO), Migrants Organise
- Satbir Singh (Chief Executive), Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
- Lucy Jones (Director of Programmes), Doctors of the World
- Andrea Vukovic (Project Director), Asylum Matters
- Celia Clarke (Director), Bail for Immigration Detainees
- Amy Murtagh (Interim Director), Project 17
- Ake Achi (Founder and Director), Right 2 Work UK
- Lisa Matthews (Co-ordinator), Right to Remain
- Illary Valenzuela (VAWG) (Policy and Communications Coordinator), Latin American Women’s Right Services
- Marchu Girma (Grassroots Director) and Natasha Walter (Director) Women for Refugee Women
- Yva Alexandrova Meadway (Policy and Campaigns Manager), Migrants Resource Centre/ Asylum Aid
- Robina Qureshi (Director) Positive Action on Housing
- Sally Daghlian (CEO), Praxis Community Projects
- Caz Hattam (Manager), The Unity Project
- Selina Hales, Refuweegee
Supporting organisations and individuals
- Nick Dearden (Director), Global Justice Now
- Rita Chadha (Director), Migrant Rights Network
- Gracie Bradley (Policy and Campaigns Manager), Liberty
- Patrick Vernon OBE