Personal Immigration

Human rights concerns over Immigration Bill

A recent report from the Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has raised concerns over certain provisions contained within the Government’s Immigration Bill.

The provisions in question relate to restrictions on people’s ability to rent or occupy private property based on their immigration status.

While the Committee accepts that these provisions have been included to achieve a legitimate aim – immigration control – it feels there is a risk that they may sometimes be applied in a way that breaches human rights.

Government consultation

The Government initially launched a consultation into plans that landlords should be required to check the immigration status of tenants in July last year. Under the proposals, there would be penalties for those who provide rented accommodation to illegal migrants in breach of the new requirements.

When the consultation was launched, the Government said that these proposals would:

  • Benefit communities blighted by unlawful structures, known as ‘beds in sheds’, and overcrowded houses that can bring social problems and costs to local communities.
  • Be modelled closely on existing controls for the employment of illegal workers, which it says are well established and have operated successfully for the last five years.

Landlords generally welcomed the proposals

Speaking at the time, the National Landlords Association welcomed the consultation, but stressed that in order to work, the system must be simple, straightforward and easy for landlords to use and understand.

“It makes sense to base the requirements on the established system used by employers to verify that individuals have the right to work in the UK, not least because there is a clear acknowledgement that employers, like landlords, are not immigration experts,” commented Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer, National Landlords Association. “They can only be expected to carry out reasonable checks that someone is who they say they are, and that they have the documentation to prove they have the right to be here.”

Committee concerns

The proposals were included in the Immigration Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has been examining the Bill as part of the parliamentary scrutiny process. It has highlighted a number of concerns, including:

  • The risk that the new provisions relating to residential tenancies will give rise in practice to homelessness, in breach of the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in the case of people who have no right to remain in the UK but face genuine barriers to leaving.
  • That the measures will give rise to an undue risk that migrant children will be exposed to homelessness or separation from family members. These concerns have led the Committee to urge the Government to explain fully the safeguards that exist to mitigate the impact of these provisions on children.
  • That there will be a greater risk of racial discrimination against prospective tenants, even though such discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act. The Committee has therefore called on the Government not to implement these provisions until the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Government Equalities Office are satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to prevent such discrimination from arising in practice.

Risk of creating a “hostile environment”

“Effective immigration control is recognised by human rights law as a legitimate aim which governments are entitled to pursue, and my Committee accepts that the measures in this Bill are intended to pursue that aim,” said Dr Hywel Francis MP, the Chair of the Committee.

“However, creating a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants carries risks that the measures will have unintended consequences and lead to breaches of human rights and unjustified discrimination in practice,” he added.

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Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.

 

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