Home Secretary Priti Patel promised in July to bring a new ‘fair, humane and compassionate’ approach to immigration policy, but many organisations are now dismayed by new rules and outlined plans that indicate her new approach seems to be really quite the opposite.
As a result, local authorities, charities, rights groups and lawyers have joined in opposition, and lawsuits against the Home Office are multiplying.
Last week, Manchester joined a number of London councils (Southwark, Islington, Haringey, and the Greater London Authority) in refusing to comply with new rules that would see non-UK citizens being deported if found to be sleeping rough, effective from 1 December.
Thousands of immigrants who have the right to stay but come under the ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy would be among the most affected by the rules. They have constituted a significant part of the increase in rough sleepers in big cities following the unemployment that’s hit them during the pandemic.
Not only does it target vulnerable people but leaves many open to greater exploitation, reversing the work of anti-slavery groups.
“The timing of this through the winter months as we navigate cold weather and ongoing infection risks from Covid-19 is of grave concern,” said the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).
The regional authorities have joined over 150 campaign groups and lawyers in asking the Home Office to scrap it, pointing out that not only does it target vulnerable people but leaves many open to greater exploitation, reversing the work of anti-slavery groups.
GMCA added: “Working with people who have been victimised, trafficked, moved from one end of the country to another as part of an asylum system that has often failed them means building trust can be hard. This is why we will not be complicit in Home Office policies.”
A lawsuit against the rule is being prepared by the Public Interest Law Centre on behalf of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London, with others on the way.
Three months on since the Home Office suddenly decided to turn two disused army facilities into camps for hundreds of asylum seekers, the complaints over their inadequacy – impossible social distancing, cramped and unsanitary conditions, military setting – have accumulated.
Duncan Lewis Solicitors is representing one group of asylum seekers and, coincidentally, is also the firm that experienced a far-right terror attack in October – believed to have been incited by the Home Secretary’s rhetoric and right-wing press.
Thousands of immigrants who have the right to stay but come under the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition would be among the most affected by the new rules.
It’s also been prominent in seeking to bring the Home Office to account. Beyond being one of the firms intervening in the Jamaica mass deportation earlier this month, it’s sought to ensure that asylum seekers get adequate support in basic cash and essentials when in emergency accommodation. Currently it’s trying to help them receive a backdated adjustment payment that the Home Office has failed to make.
Given Patel’s stated aim of ‘at least a thousand deportations’ by year-end; plans that often reflect unawareness or obliviousness to law and basic rights, and tendency to use vilifying rhetoric, it seems inevitable that lawsuits against her are likely to continue.
But lawsuits against the Home Office shouldn’t be her only worry. At the time of writing, a letter had just been handed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicating he was set to be sued for not having sacked Priti Patel: opting to ignore an independent inquiry that found her guilty of bullying behaviour to civil servants. The legal challenge is backed by the FDA union of civil servants.
[Header image: gov.uk]