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Colin Yeo takes in-depth look at the "hostile environment" for migrants

Date of Publication: 
30 May 2017
Article looks at the origins of the policy, who is affected by it, the intentions and the results

Colin Yeo takes an in-depth look at the "hostile environment" for migrants

30 May 2017

A comprehensive new article by Garden Court barrister Colin Yeo on Free Movement takes an in-depth look at the (former and, according to the polls, the likely next) government's "hostile environment" for migrants.

You can read it here.

The article looks at the origins of the policy, who is affected by it, the intentions and the results, and considers its costs.

Yeo traces the roots of the Home Office's use of the term back to May 2012 when the then Home Secretary Theresa May told the Telegraph that "[t]he aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration."

The majority of the proposals for the hostile environment (such as limiting access to work, housing, health care and bank accounts, and restricting appeal rights) became law via the Immigration Act 2014, and were then strengthened under the Immigration Act 2016.

Noting that the Home Office and/or police appear to have neither the resources nor the will to enforce existing immigration laws, Yeo says the "defining feature of the new hostile environment is the abandonment of the pretence at central government enforcement of immigration laws and the move to reliance on indirect means to encourage compliance with and punish breaches of immigration control."

According to Colin Yeo, the fall-out from the policy means it is not only unlawful migrants who are affected, with lawful migrants, ethnic minorities, young people and women all being disproportionately affected.

As Yeo notes, a 2015 report by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) found the Immigration Act 2014's 'Right to Rent' scheme encourages discrimination and has created a hostile environment for all migrants and ethnic minorities in the UK seeking to access the private rental market.

Colin Yeo's post also looks at how the hostile environment has contributed to the labyrinthine complexity of the Immigration Rules, leaving immigration law "anything but accessible, intelligible, clear and predictable."

"Migants, lawyers and judges are now faced by rules which are uniquely set out in a non-sequential fashion, breaking a drafting convention that can be traced to at least the Ten Commandments. These rules are so difficult to comprehend that it is hard even to describe their complexity," Yeo says.

The cost of making an immigration or nationality application has risen sharply, while access to legal remedies against Home Office decisions has been sharply restricted, despite the fact that the evidence suggests, if anything, it is meritorious appellants who are being filtered out.

Yeo finds that there is "little to no evidence that the hostile environment actually works," and believes that is because the Home Office "is not interested in the question of whether it actually works or not." Instead, Yeo concludes the hostile environment is "more akin to a moral crusade."