Immigration Bill

The Immigration Bill 2015-16 is now set to receive royal assent. JUSTICE worked with a coalition of NGOs, co-ordinated by the Immigration Law Practitioner’s Association, which helped to achieve or support a few significant victories including:

  • A commitment by the Government to accept a (as yet to be determined) number of unaccompanied refugee children from the EU
  • Automatic bail hearings for all immigration detainees after four months
  • Limitations on the detention of pregnant women

Our briefings were widely picked up and quoted by all three main opposition parties, not least by Andy Burnham (scroll down to column 209), Shadow Home Secretary, Joanna Cherry (scroll down to column 246), the SNP’s Justice and Home Affairs spokesperson and by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (scroll down to column 2482), Chair of the JUSTICE Council.

Also worthy of mention was JUSTICE’s role in helping to pressure the Government into withdrawing provisions that would have allowed the Secretary of State to over-rule the decisions of the judiciary in respect of electronic tagging and residence conditions. The amended provisions are still somewhat problematic, but a marked improvement on their predecessors.

You can read the full JUSTICE briefings for all stages below.

According to the Explanatory Notes published alongside the Bill, the purpose of the Bill is to tackle illegal immigration by making it harder to live and work illegally in the United Kingdom. The Bill contains a number of measures aimed at combating illegal working and restricting access to services for irregular migrants, extends the enforcement powers of immigration officers, detainee custody officers, prison officers and prisoner custody officers as well as making changes to the appeals system, immigration bail and asylum support.

JUSTICE is concerned about a number of provisions in the Bill. However, we concentrate on those provisions most closely within our area of expertise. We note the concerns expressed by others including: the power to evict tenants without recourse to the courts; the mandatory imposition of tags on those granted bail who are subject to deportation; the extension of the enforcement powers of  immigration officers, detainee custody officers, prison officers and prisoner custody officers powers; and the closure or freezing of bank accounts. Silence on a specific provision is not meant to be read as approval.

Clause 32: Offence of illegal working

Clause 32 of the Bill criminalises workers who are subject to immigration control and without leave in the UK and enables the confiscation of their wages.

JUSTICE recommends that the offence of illegal working is removed from the Bill because it is unnecessary and risks undermining important efforts made over recent years to address issues such as trafficking and modern-day slavery in the UK.

Clause 37: Offence of leasing premises

Clause 37 of the Bill introduces a new criminal offence for landlords and agents who let properties to those disqualified from renting by virtue of their immigration status.

JUSTICE recommends that the offence of leasing premises to those disqualified from renting is removed from the Bill or, at the very least, its coming into force is delayed, pending a full and comprehensive evaluation of the possible discriminatory effects of civil sanctions introduced for the same offence.

Clause 59: Appeals

Clause 59 of the Bill allows the Secretary of State to require appellants to appeal the refusal of their immigration related human rights claim from outside the UK except where “serious irreversible harm” would result.

JUSTICE recommends that Clause 59 is removed from the Bill or, at the very least, its coming into force is delayed, pending a thorough evaluation of the extent to which requiring appellants to appeal from abroad denies appellants access to justice and breaches their human rights.

Schedule 10: Asylum Support

Schedule 10 changes the way in which refused asylum seekers and others are supported by the Home Office where they would otherwise be destitute. The proposals repeal existing support provisions to replace them with new ones for refused asylum seekers who are destitute and face a “genuine obstacle” to leaving the UK.

JUSTICE recommends that schedule 10 is amended to provide a right of appeal against refusals of support and thereby safeguard refused asylum seekers from being left destitute in breach of Article 3.