The hostile environment for immigrants

February 2018

How Theresa May has created an underclass in the UK

The “hostile environment” for immigrants is the brain child of Theresa May, who as home secretary in 2012, introduced a cruel new approach towards immigration that aimed to make life so difficult for people in the UK who don't have the ‘correct’ documents that it would force them to leave. She also planned to make people’s lives such a misery by denying them their basic needs, such as housing and healthcare, in the hope it would act as a deterrent to stop people coming to the UK. May said: “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants.”

This idea was then translated in to government policy in the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 and includes a raft of measures to prevent people from accessing employment, healthcare, housing, education, banking and other basic services.

The reality of translating this policy in to practice has meant May has created a deeply unequal and rigidly divided society. While “citizens” enjoy a wide range of human rights, and their right to a certain standard of living is widely accepted, others have been deemed “illegal” - which is a term with only one use - to justify discrimination. If they get ill, they struggle to get healthcare. If they lose their job, they have no labour rights. If they are evicted, they may be forced to live on the streets. They also cannot drive or open bank accounts. They are demonised in the media and treated with disgust by a large part of the political establishment.

The hostile environment is about making borders part of everyday life. It is the natural counter-part to the billions of pounds spent on walls, fences and oppressive border infrastructure. It aims to turn ordinary people - doctors, landlords, bank managers and employers - into immigration officers and send a clear message to immigrants - that they are not welcome.

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