By Jilna Shah
Bank account checks — part of the Home Office’s hostile environment strategy to identify irregular migrants — were suspended last month, as part of a series of government U-turns following the Windrush scandal.
MRN welcomed the suspension of banking checks, but recognise that this remains a temporary measure to the government’s overall hostile attitude towards migrants, and will be monitoring developments closely.
MRN has written to and met with a number of banks and building societies since the bank account checks were introduced in January, on the harmful and discriminatory consequences such actions.
Around 70 million UK bank accounts were being regularly checked by banks per quarter against the Home Office’s list of “disqualified persons”, before the policy was suspended 17 May. When an account was suspected of being used by an irregular migrant, banks were mandated to flag these to the Home Office, who could instruct them to close down the account of the individual concerned.
Insightful conversations with network partners such as Young Roots, who work with migrant children, have highlighted the impact on particularly vulnerable groups like unaccompanied minors.
Losing access to a bank account could be a first step down a slippery slope into destitution. Formal banking is often the only means of accessing money for vulnerable migrants and the changes would mean that they are forced to use cash and/or black market financial services.
Meanwhile, its possible that people are still being affected by the bank checks. We will continue to be in dialogue with banks and stakeholders on this issue. If you are somebody who has been impacted by the banking checks since May 17th, or if one of your clients has, please contact us at: [email protected]