The Hostile Environment is an official policy designed to make life incredibly difficult for those residing in the UK illegally. The eventual aim of the policy is to drive illegal migrants to leave the country of their own accord.
Under the policy, right to rent checks, medical professionals checking immigration status before administering treatment, right to work checks and more became the norm for everyday UK life.
This resulted in effectively outsourcing immigration control to the public at large, the denial of healthcare and the Windrush scandal to name a few.
It was hoped, or perhaps optimistically assumed, that the Home Office would actively track the effects of such measures, ensuring that its Hostile Environment policy was achieving the desired outcome, given its price. However, it would now appear that the Home Office does not know if this policy works and questions have been raised as to whether they even value the policy’s success.
The National Audit Office (“NAO”) has highlighted the fact that the Home Office has failed to update the illegal population statistics in 15 years. This revelation comes just after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has announced the launch of legal action to review whether the Home Office has complied with equality laws while implementing the Hostile Environment policy. The NAO’s conclusion was that the Home Office is currently unable to assess whether the Hostile Environment has been effective. There is a lack of statistics allowing comparison between the size of the UK’s illegal population before and after the policy’s implementation.
Of more concern is the fact that the Home Office does not appear to be interested in establishing these statistics. In 2016 the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration reported that “there was no evidence that any work had been done or was planned in relation to measuring the deterrent effect of the ‘hostile environment’ on would be illegal migrants”.
This unknown number of ‘illegals’ present in the UK has the potential to increase significantly as of 30 June 2021, when the EU Settlement Scheme will close and any EU/EEA citizens not registered under the Scheme by that point will no longer be protected under freedom of movement or the conditions outlined in the transition period, becoming illegal residents within the UK. In a similar disregard for statistics, there is currently no discernable metric for how many EU/EEA nationals are present in the UK who have not yet secured leave under the Settlement Scheme.
The Home Office’s and UK Government’s push for EU/EEA nationals to register under the scheme risks becoming a platitude in the wake of the NAO’s findings and the Home Office’s apparent disregard for the numbers of people correctly or incorrectly subjected to their ‘Compliant Environment’.
An overall solution is elusive, however, one immediate step to be taken is to increase accessibility to the EU Settlement Scheme and make a concerted effort to ensure a repeat of the Windrush scandal is avoided.
Gherson has extensive experience of advising on all UK visa and immigration matters and aiding EU/EEA citizens navigate the EU Settlement Scheme. If you have not yet applied under this scheme and wish to discuss the process of doing so, please contact us.
Please note that the information in this blog is current at the date and time of posting. The situation regarding policy and guidance based on the COVID-19 pandemic is subject to change at short notice. We shall be monitoring all aspects of UK immigration which may be impacted by the coronavirus closely, so please do keep updated with further blogs and articles which we will be posting on this site.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.
Paralegal in our General Immigration team