Wide-ranging report says UK’s immigration, asylum and citizenship policies are not working
Maya Goodfellow and Colin Yeo among contributors calling for reform of the immigration system in Runnymede Trust’s new collection of essays
24 June 2020
An interesting and highly readable new report from the Runnymede Trust gathers together some well-known names in the field of immigration for a collection of essays calling for a major overhaul of the UK's immigration system.
The 48-page report, From Expendable to Key Workers and Back Again: Immigration and the Lottery of Belonging in Britain, can be read here.
The eight individual essays contained within are:
• A hostile environment for migrants: How did we get here? by Maya Goodfellow, author, academic and commentator.
• Prioritising children's rights to British citizenship by the Runnymede Trust's interim director, Dr Zubaida Haque.
• Citizens in waiting: The case for reforming citizenship by Colin Yeo, Garden Court barrister and Free Movement editor.
• Lockdown: Immigration detention in the Covid-19 crisis and beyond by Matthew Leidecker, campaigns manager at Detention Action.
• Sisters not strangers: Refugee women, Covid-19 and destitution by Priscilla Dudhia, policy and research coordinator at Women for Refugee Women.
• Building the migrant justice movement by Akram Salhab and Neha Shah from Migrants Organise.
• Organising against data sharing by Gracie Mae Bradley, Liberty's policy manager.
• Movement minus discrimination: A global migration lottery? by the Runnymede Trust's former director Omar Khan.
Lord Alf Dubs contributes the foreword.
The Runnymede Trust says the common thread highlighted in the wide-ranging report is that the UK's immigration, asylum and citizenship policies are not working.
It explains: "When we started putting together this volume it was in response to an immigration and asylum system that was failing on all counts. It was failing to treat migrants with dignity, whether they were moving for sanctuary, for economic opportunity or for both. It was failing to treat people fairly following a long history of discriminatory migration policy in Britain … Then an unprecedented pandemic brought the dysfunction of the immigration system and the possibility of change into even sharper focus."
The report says Covid-19 has exposed the injustice at the heart of immigration and asylum policy, as well as demonstrating how things once branded impossible or undesirable can change to be seen as possible and necessary. It notes: "Detainees have been released into the community. The role migrants play in staffing public services and working in integral industries is publicly acknowledged. Polling for British Future found that two-thirds of the public (64 per cent) agree that 'the coronavirus crisis has made me value the role of 'low-skilled' workers, in essential services such as care homes, transport and shops, more than before'."
The report concludes: "People move and will continue to do so, and government policy should reflect this reality. Currently it does not. Major reform is urgently needed."
The report's recommendations for reform include:
• The hostile environment should be scrapped.
• No recourse to public funds should be scrapped and the ban on working while an asylum claim is being processed should be lifted.
• There should be statutory criteria for immigration detention, provisions for automatic judicial oversight of decisions to detain and a maximum time limit for detention of 28 days.
• Birthright citizenship should be reintroduced and the good character requirement removed for children and adults.
• The punitive costs associated with naturalisation should be reduced, with fee exemptions put in place for children in local authority care.
• A firewall should be put in place so that data collected by essential public services is completely separated from Home Office immigration enforcement functions.