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Tue, 11 August 2020

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The Government's destructive immigration plans risk creating a new Windrush scandal

The Government's destructive immigration plans risk creating a new Windrush scandal

The Home Secretary is intent on this new immigration system, which will make it harder not just for the NHS and social care providers, but the hospitality sector and many other British employers to hire the workers they need – just as they are working to recover from the coronavirus crisis, says Christine Jardine MP | Credit: PA Images

4 min read

The Tories plans will inflict the existing broken system on millions of people from the EU and the thousands of small businesses who employ them.

The Liberal Democrats are fighting to prevent another Windrush Scandal.

For reasons that I cannot fathom, Priti Patel is pressing ahead with immigration plans which aim to replace the freedom of movement we have all taken for granted with an alternative which will help no-one: the Conservative Government’s Immigration Bill which is being pushed through the House of Commons today.

More than ever, the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the enormous contributions that workers from all over the world make to our NHS, social care and across our society. They are protecting us and putting their lives on the line every single day.

By ending EU free movement, the Government would both make it harder for doctors and nurses to come to work in the NHS and charge them thousands of pounds in fees for the privilege.

That could make it virtually impossible to recruit social care workers from overseas.

Yet the Home Secretary is intent on this new immigration system, which will make it harder not just for the NHS and social care providers, but the hospitality sector and many other British employers to hire the workers they need – just as they are working to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

There’s no doubt that our immigration system is in urgent need of repair. But the Conservatives’ plans will not make it better.

By ending EU free movement, the Government would both make it harder for doctors and nurses to come to work in the NHS and charge them thousands of pounds in fees for the privilege.

Instead, it will inflict the existing broken system on millions of people from the EU and the thousands of small businesses who employ them.

Liberal Democrats oppose these destructive Tory plans, and instead argue for fair, effective and compassionate fixes to our immigration system.

The appalling Windrush Scandal demonstrated how, under the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment, people who have every right to live in the UK are wrongly denied access to NHS treatment, housing and other services simply because they don’t have the documents to prove it.

Innocent people are made homeless, detained and even deported.  The police share personal data with the Home Office, deterring victims and witnesses from coming forward. This has to stop.

The Windrush Scandal should have been the end of the Hostile Environment, but despite their apologies the Conservatives have kept these cruel, discriminatory policies in force. Liberal Democrats are working to finally scrap the Hostile Environment.

So we’ve tabled an amendment that would force Priti Patel to implement in full the findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review – including a review of all Hostile Environment policies – before she can go ahead with her plans for a new immigration system.

But there’s one bit of the Hostile Environment that should go right away: the Conservatives’ ‘Right to Rent’ scheme, under which landlords face up to five years in prison for renting to someone without the necessary immigration status. The courts have found that the scheme causes racial discrimination in access to housing, yet appallingly Conservative Ministers are refusing to scrap it.

We must make clear that racial discrimination has no place in our laws, and that’s why the Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to abolish the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme.

The prime minister should finally live up to his promise to EU citizens and accept our amendment.

As long as the Government refuses to scrap the Hostile Environment, however, their plans to end free movement risk creating a new Windrush Scandal for the millions of EU citizens already living in the UK.

The prime minister promised to automatically guarantee their rights to stay, but he has broken that promise. Instead, they are being forced to apply for ‘Settled Status’, and the Home Office is refusing to provide physical proof of their rights even for those who get it.

That’s why we’ve tabled another amendment which would grant EU citizens the automatic right to stay and require the Government to provide them with physical documents. The prime minister should finally live up to his promise to EU citizens and accept our amendment.

We owe it to the victims of the Windrush Scandal to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again. We need a fair immigration system that everyone can have confidence in and that treats everyone with dignity and respect. That’s what the Liberal Democrats are fighting for as the Government’s Immigration Bill makes its way through Parliament.

 

Chrsitine Jardine is Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West and home affairs spokesperson

Read the most recent article written by Christine Jardine MP - Social media companies must wake up and stop their platforms from becoming safe places for hate

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