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Illegal Immigration: Has the "Hostile Environment" Worked?

Britain has an interesting history as far as immigration is concerned. At times it has profited from immigration significantly, and at others has been completely against the idea of immigration - no matter the benefits. One of the most surprising decisions in recent governmental history was the introduction of the so-called “hostile environment” by the Home Office.

The “hostile environment” policy was introduced by the current Conservative government  while current prime minister Theresa May was home secretary. According to many critics, the “hostile environment” is a dark period as far as immigration is concerned in the UK. The policy itself was designed to encourage illegal immigrants residing in the UK to return to their country of origin. The UK being one of the world's hot spots for immigration means there is a tough balancing act to achieve when it comes to immigration. On the one hand Britain profits economically from immigration but it isn't always popular with the indigenous population. Immigration was one of the major reasons that the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Policies that came from the “hostile environment” included the removal of homeless European citizens and the requirement for more stringent identification requirements for landlords, the NHS, charities and many other institutions to make it harder for illegal immigrants to remain in the UK. There were also vans driving around towns with high populations of illegal immigrants warning them to go home. This campaign was part of a wider advertising plot encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country.

Has the “hostile environment” actually changed anything?

Policy wise there were significant changes introduced in the wake of the “hostile environment” policy introduction, the fallout from this included the “Windrush scandal”. The Scandal brought to light the lack of documentation provided to those who came from the Caribbean to the UK to help build the country. The decision to attack these people and try to remove them from the country caused a heavy backlash in the nation’s news media. There was also significant criticism for the vans that were sent around trying to appeal to illegal immigrants to leave the country.

The government has since had to backtrack on some of its policies. The severe criticism with which they were met means that the decision to remove some of the most severe policies was taken. There's also been significant help for those affected by the “Windrush scandal” to help provide them the documentation that they weren't given when they originally came into the country. This now means that many of them have a secure future in the UK and are free from the extreme worry that had been placed on them.

Will the British government continue to use the “hostile environment” as a way of controlling immigration?

It's hard to say whether the British government will continue to pursue a “hostile environment” strategy against illegal immigrants. It's Conservative ideology to try and encourage illegal immigrants to leave the country. But they also have to carefully balance this with what is popular with the public. As the government in power, the Conservatives need to ensure they try not to upset the populace at large, and while many will be happy at the decision to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants, many will see it a different way.

Certainly the identification checks that were introduced for illegal immigrants are likely to remain in place, these have now been implemented and it will be a lot more expensive to remove them. But it does seem highly unlikely that will ever see the “go home” vans back on the streets or indeed the adverts in the national newspapers asking for illegal immigrants to leave the country. In the wake of Windrush scandal, the government needs to tread carefully when it comes to the way it deals with immigration the future.

Will Brexit change the UK’s approach to immigration?

Brexit is likely to make significant changes to the way that UK does many things, immigration is surely one of them. With freedom of movement likely to end in the next few years, the UK faces a tough balancing act on what to do with the future of immigration. the UK has profited significantly from european immigration to the UK in the past 40 years, and the idea that this will just come to an end is a worrying one for many. UK businesses especially profit from skilled migrants coming to the UK, and the lack of them will certainly force up wages and prices.

There is also the issue of how the UK is going to cope with a shortfall in immigration. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the UK has managed to rebuild steadily on the back of increasing jobs becoming available and then being filled, clearly a huge slowdown in immigration is going to change the UK's ability to expand long term. This means Brexit could be a double blow due to it not being able to keep up with its European neighbours. There will be a period where European immigrants arriving in the UK and will still be able to remain for the long-term but eventually this window will close and that's when the issues will really start.

How we can help

If you are concerned about how the “hostile environment” can affect you and your family then please get in touch. Our highly experienced and qualified immigration specialists can help to look at your situation and give you some positive advice and help that can help you reach a resolution to your immigration query. So if you need help with an immigration problem, please get in touch and we'll be happy to talk to you.


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