UK: "Hostile environment" faces criticism from parliamentary committee as new migration checks on bank accounts come into force

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"Hostile environment" faces criticism from parliamentary committee as new migration checks on bank accounts come into force
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"The government needs to end its reliance on its error-hit “hostile environment” policy towards illegal migrants because it is not only deeply distressing to those involved but also undermines the credibility of immigration enforcement, MPs have said.

The Commons home affairs select committee says the longstanding lack of any official analysis of the scale and nature of illegal immigration has allowed anxiety over the issue to grow unchecked, and it calls for the publication of an annual estimate based on exit check data."

See:MPs criticise error-hit 'hostile environment' for illegal immigrants (The Guardian, link):

"The cross-party committee’s report is the strongest parliamentary criticism of the Home Office’s “hostile environment” measures, which include denying access to rented accommodation, revoking driving licences and closing the bank accounts of those listed as illegal immigrants.

It cites a 10% error rate in a Home Office list of “disqualified people”. Some people have been refused a new bank account because they were wrongly included on the list of those at risk of being told to leave the country."

See the Home Affairs Select Committee report: Immigration policy: basis for building consensus(pdf) and: Reform and public involvement needed to restore confidence in immigration system(parliament. uk, link)

The report comes just days after new rules came into force obliging banks to make immigraiton checks on holders of UK current accounts - the most recent element of the "hostile environment" policy.

See: Banks run immigration checks in Home Office crackdown (Sky News, link):

"Banks are to begin immigration checks on millions of accounts as part of a Home Office scheme to create a "hostile environment" for people living in the UK unlawfully.

The new scheme, which will be rolled out this month, requires banks and building societies to check all current account holders against a list of people liable for deportation or wanted by immigration enforcement."

And: Joint statement condemns immigration checks on bank account holders (Migrants' Rights Network, link):

"The Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN), Global Justice Now and No Borders in Banks condemn the Home Office’s introduction of immigration checks on bank current account holders, which came into effect today.

We are deeply concerned by the adding of another element to the already pernicious and established ‘hostile environment’ for migrants. We believe the measures will have harmful and discriminatory consequences including:

  • Current accounts being frozen or closed down incorrectly, due to a high error rate in the Home Office data used for the checks
  • Vulnerable migrants – already at heightened risk of exploitation due to their immigration status – being denied safe access to their money, and forced to rely on black financial markets and cash
  • These same migrants being left unable to meet their most basic needs, such as for food and housing. Accessing such services is a right for everyone, no matter your immigration status.
  • Account closures being be felt disproportionately by people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, given the links between immigration status and ethnicity

We are also worried by the lack of clarity around an appeals process for affected individuals. Moreover, given the Home Office’s notorious track record in processing complaints, we fear any process eventually established will be poorly run and lengthy. This will further compound the issues raised above."

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