Migrationist Monthly: UK edition

“Migrationist Monthly” is a new series on The Migrationist. Once a month, we’ll be offering you a rundown of that month’s immigration news for selected countries in 500 words or less.

The month began with a bad taste thanks to the Immigration Bill that just passed through the House of Commons. Already crammed with the kind of shallow, showy immigration policy this government favours (cutting the grounds for appeal against deportation, forcing landlords to report tenants’ immigration status, getting banks to check immigrants’ legal status, introducing a levy for temporary migrants – including international students – to go towards NHS services…), amendments were shoved in last minute and predictably dominated the debate.

The House rejected an amendment put forward by Tory MP rebels to stop foreign criminals from using Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a family life) to avoid deportation (revealing discord within the Tory Party). But MP’s did vote in favour of an amendment introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May  allowing her to deprive individuals of British citizenship acquired by naturalisation. Commentators have pointed out that such dictatorial power has always been the Home Secretary’s to wield, but lawyers detect a scary detail: under the new amendment, citizenship may be revoked even if it renders the person stateless. The second reading of the Bill in the House of Lords provoked seven hours of debate: stay tuned (or be prepared) next week when the bill is scheduled to go through the Lords Committee stage.

While the government continued to offload its migration control duties onto others (first it was employers and educational institutions, now landlords and banks), Immigration Minister Mark Harper, driver of the notorious Go Home campaign, found out first-hand how difficult it is as an employer to meet the demands of the border enforcement regime. In an almost (almost!) touching letter of resignation, Harper revealed that his house cleaner, Isabella Acevedo, whom he had employed for seven years, did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. A Border Agency investigation and a new Immigration minister followed. It looks as if Harper may be able to wriggle out of legal action (and out of paying below the minimum wage), but what happened to Ms Acevedo?

While the living conditions of the estimated 600,000 irregular migrants in the UK continued unseen, the Cameron government went on chipping away at the benefits entitlements of EU workers with the legal right to work in this country. Under the new minimum earnings threshold, European migrants coming to the UK will have to earn at least £149 a week for three months before they can access benefits such as child support and jobseeker’s allowance. This is likely to  hit those migrants who just scrape by with their low earnings by accessing social security benefits the hardest. Flying in the face of the principle of equal treatment for mobile EU workers, the new rules are part of a programme of welfare reforms: Cameron sees moral mission, others see destitution.

And so the ferocious onslaught of the neoliberals – described by the great and (now) late Stuart Hall – continues.

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