Further restrictions on migrants proposed : July 2013
Leander Neckles is a freelance equalities consultant, a Board member of Equanomics-UK and a member of the Race Equality Coalition.
The Queens Speech: 8th May 2013
In the Queens Speech, the Government announced that it will publish a new immigration bill to ‘reform immigration law, including provisions to strengthen our enforcement powers and protect public services.’ The Government states that the proposed bill will:
- ‘enable tough action against businesses that use illegal labour, including more substantial fines’;
- ‘regulate migrant access to the NHS, ensuring that temporary migrants make a contribution’;
- 'require private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants’;
- ‘prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining UK driving licences.’
The consultations launched in July 2013
The Department of Health (DoH) and the Home Office and have launched consultations about these proposals. Unfortunately these consultations have different opening and closing dates:
- Sustaining services, ensuring fairness: This DoH consultation is on charging migrants and overseas visitors to use NHS and how better to identify patients who should be charged. This consultation opened on 3rd July 2013 and closes on 28 August 2013.
- Controlling Immigration – Regulating Migrant Access to Health Services in the UK: This Home Office consultation seeks views on ensuring that migrants contribute fairly to the costs of their healthcare. This consultation was launched on 03 July 2013 and closes on 28 August 2013.
- Tackling illegal immigration in privately rented accommodation: This consultation seeks views on the proposed requirement on landlords to conduct immigration checks on tenants. This Home Office consultation was launched on 3 July 2013 and closes on 21 August 2013.
- Prevention of illegal working: Strengthening and simplifying the civil penalty scheme: This consultation seeks views on the Governments proposals to strengthen and simplify the current civil penalty scheme to prevent illegal migrant working. This Home Office consultation was launched on 9 July 2013 and closes on 20 August 2013.
The impact of the immigration proposals and need to respond to the consultations
The proposals have the potential to severely harm migrants and wider black and minority ethnic communities. The Migrants Rights Network has provided an excellent overview of the proposals in the Queens Speech.
- Don Flynn, the Director of the Migrants Rights Network, describes the measures on healthcare and housing as being “aimed at making it tougher for new migrants to settle into anything resembling a decent life in the UK.” Don Flynn also says that the proposals are ‘ignoble’ and involving “closing down access to free NHS healthcare for large numbers of people who have yet to establish themselves in permanent settlement, and a new duty on landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants.”
- Medsin-UK, the Student Global Health Charity has warned that government proposals to restrict migrant access to NHS healthcare “will increase NHS costs and put at risk the health of vulnerable migrants.”
- The National Aids Trust has criticised the government’s focus on curbing “health tourism” and warned that it could make it harder for migrants to receive HIV tests and treatment. NAT Chief Executive Deborah Jack said: “The government has provided no evidence of the ‘health tourism’ which the restrictions on migrant access to the NHS outlined in today’s Queen’s Speech are meant to address. In relation to HIV treatment, we know that claims of ‘health tourism’ are completely unfounded.”
- Shelter and other housing charities have raised profound concerns about the proposals. “At Shelter, we’re not in favour of anything that makes it harder for people to find a home. Getting landlords and letting agents to check immigration status could lead to increased discrimination against prospective renters of BME backgrounds, foreign nationals and those with poor English.”
- Leigh Daynes, Executive Director of Doctors of the World UK said: "Discriminating between patients goes against medical ethics and violates the Oath doctors take."
- Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: "These proposals will affect our most vulnerable clients, refused asylum seekers who are often destitute, unable or too scared to return to their home countries.’‘
Do respond to the proposals. You can find briefings on the proposals on the Equality and Diversity Forum website and on the Migrants Rights Network’ website.