The UK immigration system needs to stop hurting people

I need you to understand the cruelty of the hostile environment, and then write your MP to put an end to it.

I recently posted a 114-tweet long thread on Twitter on the spectrum of hurt caused by the UK immigration system’s hostile environment. This post is a copy of that thread in blog form.

I’m finally a permanent resident

After 9 years in the UK, I’m finally a permanent resident.

  • share it
  • write to your MP to end the hostile environment

Let’s change the narrative on immigration

I have been intentionally keeping my mouth shut on this topic because I didn’t feel I had a right or that it was safe for me to speak out while my life here was considered ‘temporary’.

A system designed to hurt people

I need to start by saying I recognise I experience a lot of privilege in the UK immigration system. I’m a white, English-speaker from the US. This system wasn’t specifically designed to hurt me.

Background

The hostile environment refers to policies introduced in 2012 to make life so bad for unauthorised immigrants they’d voluntarily leave the UK.

The spectrum of hurt caused by the hostile environment

Racial discrimination

This is what I meant when I said the system isn’t specifically designed to hurt white women like me. It was intentionally designed to be a racist system to counter the consequences of colonialism.

Long waits without documentation

When I applied for a visa extension in 2017, it was back when you had to send away your passport and residency card with your application. The waiting time for a decision on my application was 2 months.

Financial hurt

Over the last 5 years, I’ve paid £5.4k in visa application fees and health surcharges.

Paying extra for the NHS

We also pay extra for the NHS, even though we already pay for it through taxes like everyone else.

Being extorted for even more money

Sopra Steria are contracted by the Home Office to run the process around getting applicants’ biometrics (fingerprints and picture). This used to be a free process you did at the local post office.

No safety net

Before ILR, immigrants have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). The Prime Minister seemed genuinely surprised to learn this in May when MP Stephen Timms brought it to his attention.

Separating families

The family visa route is cruel. There is a minimum income requirement (MIR) (£18,600 per year) to sponsor a non-UK partner. More if there are kids needing sponsorship, too.

Demonising asylum seekers

The Government and media portray them as illegal immigrants, but you have to be on British soil to claim asylum. This idea being spewed that you have to claim asylum in the first ‘safe’ country - it’s false.

Detaining people for no purpose

The detention system is meant to hold people the Government wants to remove from the UK. But more 60% of those detained are eventually released, putting people through great distress and trauma for nothing.

Pushing people out of legal status

People can come here legally but then lose their status because extortionate visa costs price them out of the system or they ‘break’ the complex rules.

Setting up people to be criminalised

I’ll let this tweet from BID explain itself.

Dehumanisation

The ILR application asked if I had any friends in my birth country or any other country I have lived in.

Screencap of indefinite leave to remain application form asking you to name your friends in your birth country.
Screencap of indefinite leave to remain application form asking you to name your friends in your birth country.
If you select that you do have friends in your birth country, you are asked to provide their personal details and how you keep in contact with them.
Screencap of indefinite leave to remain application form question asking why you have no friends in your birth country.
Screencap of indefinite leave to remain application form question asking why you have no friends in your birth country.
If you select that you do not have friends in your birth country, you are asked why you do not have friends.

Wrongfully deporting people

You may know about the Windrush Generation: post-WWII immigrants from the Caribbean who came here legally as British subjects. But they didn’t have documentation that specifically said this.

Putting EU citizens at risk

The next Windrush-like scandal is about to happen next year to the EU citizens that live in the UK. This is because the Government is making EU citizens apply to a settlement scheme by 30 June 2021.

  • digitally illiterate residents
  • young people in care
  • victims of modern slavery
  • people paid in cash

TL;DR

The UK immigration system hurts people. The hurting needs to stop. Help me stop it.

What you need to do

I’ve told you what you need to know. Now let’s move on to what you need to do.

Find your MP

Find your MP and get their contact details.

Learn how to write to your MP

Read this advice from Content Design London on how to write your MP (second tweet):

What to tell your MP

The following are the actions I want to see happen. You might not agree with all of them. You tell your MP what you want to.

1. Scrap the Minimum Income Requirement

Families should not be separated by an income requirement. In 2015, 40% of working Brits were earning less than £18,600. That percentage increases for certain demographics.

2. Scrap the Immigration Health Surcharge for all immigrants

We already pay taxes for the NHS like everyone else. Stop the double taxation that’s now about to skyrocket to £624 per year.

3. Eliminate appointment fees charged by UKVCAS (the service run by Sopra Steria)

We already pay £19.20 for biometrics in our application. A 3rd party company should not be able to charge us extra for a compulsory service that we used to do for free at the post office.

4. Reduce application fees

Applications should not cost thousands of pounds per person, when it only costs the Home Office a fraction of this to process. Immigration should not be a for-profit system.

5. Pay immigrants back

Once fees are reduced, those of us who have already paid the ridiculous fees need to be compensated. Our savings should not be compromised just because we had to apply at a time when the Home Office thought they could get away with charging us crippling fees.

6. Scrap No Recourse to Public Funds

We’re in an economic crisis. We can’t deny immigrants support simply because they haven’t lived here the arbitrary number of years needed to access the social safety net. This is not about handouts; it’s about security.

7. Faster application decision times

It should not take half a year (or more) to decide on an ILR application - a time when we can’t travel, access the safety net, or do anything that requires documentation to prove our right to live or work here.

8. Safe and legal routes for asylum seekers

JCWI have policy recommendations on this topic, including introducing humanitarian visas. We should not make asylum seekers risk their lives to make it to British soil to claim asylum.

9. Regularise the legal status for immigrants without it

There are 400k-1 million people without legal status in the UK - many forced out of status by the hostile environment. The Home Office accepts the vast majority will do nothing wrong. Let’s legalise their status.

10. Ensure no EU citizen loses their legal status

We cannot have tens of thousands of EU citizens lose their legal status to live in the UK next July. The onus should be on the Government to protect status by default, not for EU citizens to apply.

11. Provide physical proof of right to live in the UK

Passports aren’t going away, so we cannot create a two-tier society where Brits and non-EU residents have physical proof of their right to live in the UK, while EU citizens only have digital proof.

12. Reinstate 2-year settlement route for families

Spouses and families must wait 5 (and sometimes 10) years to get permanent residency in the UK. It used to be 2 before July 2012. A 2-year route needs to be reinstated to rectify the harm done to families in the last 8 years.

13. End the Right to Rent scheme

Landlords are not border control agents. It was ruled to cause racial discrimination, which led to the scheme being halted from coming to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It should not continue to exist in England.

14. End immigration detention

It causes unnecessary harm (including death). We don’t need to lock people up while their immigration case is being decided. There are community-based alternatives to detention.

15. Create an immigration system co-designed with immigrants

Removing hostile environment policies won’t fix everything. We need a complete overhaul. A system FOR immigrants needs to be designed WITH immigrants.

If you have a voice, use it

I told you not to congratulate me on getting ILR. Equally, after reading this, don’t tell me you’re sorry I had to go through this system.

Stay educated on the topic

After you write your MP, keep educating yourself about what’s happening to immigrants in the UK. Follow organisations like JCWI and Migrant Voice on social media.

A pedantic ending

I’d like to end on a pedantic note. If you know anyone on the digital team at the Home Office, could you tell them there’s a missing apostrophe in the SET(M) form?

Screencap of question in SET(M) form missing an apostrophe.
Screencap of question in SET(M) form missing an apostrophe.
Missing apostrophe in the phrase ‘you and your partner’s’ on the SET(M) form.

Content Designer. Runner. Immigrant. I write about things related to all 3.