For migration campaigners, the Conservative Party conference seemed less than exciting. Very little was mentioned on this topic, following the trend of the Labour conference. Was there a slightly different tone, though? Gone were the days of “foreign worker” lists and blaming migrants, openly at least. But the consequences of Conservative policies – or the lack of them – continue their negative impact.
BY FIZZA QURESHI
What Happened to those Migrant Worker Lists?
It was at the Conservative Party conference last year that Home Secretary Amber Rudd proposed “exposing” companies that employ migrant workers instead of favouring British workers. The uproar that ensued caused a merited backlash, with business leaders weighing in and branding the proposal as going one step too far.
Fast-forward to Rudd’s speech this year, and you would think the needs of businesses are the only thing that ought to be considered in a post-Brexit Britain. This time, she stated her commitment “…to working with businesses, both large and small, to make sure we don’t impose unnecessary burdens, or create damaging labour shortages.“
Wooing businesses in an age of uncertainty, with independent advisors commissioned, still does little to satisfy the needs of the employers and their EU employees, for whom uncertainty continues to cause suffering. Still, this year’s speech is a far cry from Rudd’s statements last year, that smacked of xenophobic sentiments.
Hostile? No, a “Compliant” Environment
There is little positive that can be mentioned about how Rudd and Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis have been handling the Home Office. Much has already been said of the deportation letters that were sent “in error” to EU nationals little over a month ago, but this wasn’t a one-off issue. Many others have erroneously received similar letters ordering them to leave the country, with threats of their driving licences being revoked.
At the party conference, Brandon Lewis attempted to defend the mistakes, and “hinted that ministers have rebranded their ‘hostile environment’ terminology by replacing it with talk of creating a ‘compliant environment’ for migrants in Britain.”
Whatever the terminology, the environment that has been created for migrants is toxic. It will take more than just rebranding the environment they want for migrants to mop up this harmful spillage. And, if the erroneous expulsion notices are deemed to be simple mistakes, then surely it is time the Home Office undertakes a serious audit of its practices. While the Home Affairs Committee is investigating the impact of Brexit on the Home Office’s immigration services, and its capacity to make accurate and timely decisions, what would be helpful is for these audits to be carried out more regularly, to understand how many times they get things wrong – but more importantly why they do so.
Future Immigration Paper
As mentioned at the conference, a future paper on the immigration system is to be published this Autumn (though later than expected). There is speculation that it will resemble the minimal text of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, with the details being pushed through via secondary legislation, with little to no scrutiny.
Despite the seemingly hopeless and unwinnable task of beating back what is likely to be further restrictive immigration policies, we need to begin to mobilise and prepare now, because we have a mammoth task of not only ensuring the rights of EU nationals and their dependants, but also to begin to claw back this “hostile/compliant” environment, which is doing much harm to many lives.