“Hostile environment” policy under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission

In recent reports, it has been confirmed that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) will be investing in the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy, following a recently published investigation which found that the overall set of measures make it difficult for “illegal immigrants” to stay in the United Kingdom, and specifically single out individuals who are visibly from minority groups. Findings so far in this matter suggest that the “hostile environment” policy has been used to make life for people from minority groups and backgrounds such as the BAME community (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) and the “Windrush Generation” more difficult, these means making a more difficult environment for them to live in and be part of the communities in the UK.
There are also concerns with the measures that of other organisations that are sponsored or involved with the Home Office and that have become linked to the “hostile environment” policy, whether intentionally or by association. This is obviously a matter that the UK government has become concerned about.

In the wake of the recent global reporting of the Black Lives Matter movements and protestors, where race discrimination including institutional racism was widely publicised and reported on around the world, this investigation will be concerning for the Home Office, public officials and associated organisations. It is a measure that is looking to hold certain government bodies accountable for what has been happening so far.

The Human rights group ‘Liberty’ has criticised the policies stating, “if you seem visibly foreign, these policies create a mandate for racial discrimination against you” and have issued calls for such policies to be scrapped, and specifically for the Government to commit to a data fire wall, which would prevent personal data being shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement, this is another way of ensuring data privacy. An example of this is The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), an organisation funded by the Home Office, that has been reported to have previously shared information with the Home Office has unfairly lead to migrants having to leave the country, and is an example of institutional racism toward BAME and minority groups.

It is expected that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will thoroughly investigate this matter as such measures may have breached equality laws, particularly given the OISC has already been referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the past. The inquiry by the human rights watchdog will determine whether the Home Office’s “hostile environment” immigration measures breach equality laws and if so what is going to be done about this. We will provide further updates on this story following released of the ECHR report.