The Hostile Environment for Illegal Migrants

What is the Hostile Environment? A phrase usually referring to war zones or extreme weather was applied to illegal migrants by Theresa May in 2012 when she said:

"The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration… What we don't want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they're able to access everything they need."

Since then Home Office officials have been busy tooling up to make life really difficult for those who do not have a lawful immigration status here in the UK. And it is working. We are seeing increasing numbers of people who, for many different reasons, do not have official permission to be here and are at risk of being removed by the Home Office.

The Hostile Environment is a bundle of measures which includes:

  • Working while here illegally is now a criminal offence.
  • Landlords cannot rent to anyone who is here illegally. They can evict anyone who cannot prove they have the right to rent
  • Anyone subject to immigration restrictions who wants to marry here may face an investigation to check that it is not a 'sham' marriage
  • Introduction of immigration status checks for medical treatment on the NHS
  • Sharing of patient data between the NHS and Home Office
  • An illegal migrant cannot open a bank account. There are plans to give banks the power to close accounts held by such people
  • A person without legal immigration status cannot get a driving licence and can have an existing licence revoked

What the Hostile Environment is doing to people

People find themselves in the UK without permission for many many reasons. Sometimes people do deliberately flout the laws and stay under the Home Office radar for years. But many had no idea they were here illegally because they arrived with parents a very long time ago. They might have lived and worked in the UK for years, paying taxes and making a contribution. Or they have made a minor mistake on an application form and they find themselves without permission to be here. They may well have good reason to be here and have a right to be here; but it can be a long and winding road out of the hostile environment.

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