Liberty responds to "irresponsible and unworkable" new Immigration Bill

22 October 2013

Liberty has published its response to the Government’s irresponsible and unworkable new Immigration Bill, unveiled in the House of Commons earlier this month. Rather than attempting to fix an immigration system blighted by inefficiency and error, the Bill paves the way for even greater dysfunction and complexity.

Its provisions would lead to a nightmarish bureaucratic system of immigration control in the community – embroiling private landlords, members of the clergy, bank workers and airline staff. Surprisingly the Bill seeks to bring marriage within the Anglican Church under the Government’s supervision and create reams of extra red tape for small business. 

Statistics reveal that Home Office decision-making in immigration cases is notoriously poor. But, rather than get its own house in order, the department has sought to shirk its responsibilities by passing the buck to service providers. Meanwhile its own sub-standard decisions will become harder to challenge thanks to proposals to erode appeal rights and curtail judicial discretion.   

The Bill’s most problematic provisions are as follows:

  • Part 1 reduces protections against bad decision-making for individuals in immigration detention and/or facing removal from the UK. It also provides for an unchecked extension of the circumstances in which force can be used when exercising immigration powers. New powers to search individuals and their homes are also included;
  • Part 2 erodes appeal rights against immigration decisions – making them practically inaccessible, watering down judges’ discretion and shielding the Home Office from effective challenge. Statistics reveal that first-instance decision-making in this area is notoriously poor – 42 per cent of family visit visas, 29 per cent of asylum and 51 per cent of entry clearance applications were successfully appealed last year. Scandalously the Government’s response to such figures is to insulate itself from scrutiny rather than improve decision-making;
  • Part 3 introduces immigration checks for those trying to access private housing, banking and driving licences. This is a monumental shift for the UK – a country which rejected ID cards and has consistently resisted in-country immigration policing. It also provides for new “healthcare charges” to be applied and allows for further such fees for those without a permanent right to remain in the UK. If introduced, Part 3 would have disastrous implications for race relations. It would also create new layers of complex new bureaucracy for landlords and estate agents – leading to an inevitable hike in rents for private tenants;
  • Part 4 introduces sweeping changes to rules on civil and religious marriages – requiring proposed unions involving a non-European Economic Area national to be automatically referred to the Home Secretary for investigation. This brings marriage in the Anglican Church within the Government’s sphere of immigration control for the first time – and poses a serious threat to couples seeking civil or religious marriage or civil partnerships in the UK;
  • And Part 6 seeks to introduce intrusive powers to check and examine those leaving the country to “designated persons” – namely airline carrier employees, confusing commercial air travel departure arrangements with immigration control. It also places unjustifiably onerous obligations on operator staff – at risk of criminal penalty.

 

Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: “The Home Office should look in the mirror and fix its own blundering instead of passing the buck and farming out immigration control to landlords and bank managers.

“In another desperate bid to look tough, Ministers have dreamt up a complex, bureaucratic nightmare, instead of tackling the delays and inefficiencies which blight the system.”

Contact: Liberty Press Office on 0207 378 3656 or 07973 831128

 

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Liberty’s Second Reading Briefing on the Immigration Bill in the House of Commons is available here.

2. Liberty provides policy responses to Government consultations on all issues which have implications for human rights and civil liberties. We also submit evidence to Select Committees, Inquires and other policy fora, and undertake independent, funded research. Liberty’s policy papers are available here.