August 2018: Your Local MP
The government’s ‘hostile environment’ - much bigger than Windrush
The Windrush scandal shone a light on the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy. Sadly, Caribbean elders are far from the only people affected by this.
The policy, which first gained prominence when Theresa May was Home Secretary, aims to make people feel uncomfortable living here. I believe this is a disgraceful way to treat anyone. Unfortunately, it is still affecting people in Bishopston and across Bristol West, despite reassurances that the policy has changed.
Family visits blocked
People living abroad should be able to visit their families in the UK – but it seems the Home Office is increasingly denying family visit visas, even in cases where people come to the UK to visit ill relatives, attend children’s graduations or be present at the birth of a grandchild.
In July I spoke in a debate on this issue, as I have noticed a rapid increase in my constituents’ relatives being denied family visit visas. I called for several changes to improve this situation, and will continue to challenge the government to treat families properly.
Refugees left in limbo
People fleeing war, persecution and disaster also seem to be targets for hostile treatment. The backlog of asylum applications taking more than six months has risen rapidly in recent years, from less than 5,000 in 2010 to more than 10,000 at the end of 2017. This leaves them in a limbo situation where they cannot work, for years in some cases.
If the Home Office fails to meet its own standard of a decision within six months, it should allow asylum seekers to work. This would reduce the risk of homelessness.
Refugees want to work and contribute to society. They want to keep up their skills, instead of spending years unemployed. I recently put this to Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, but she failed to appreciate this opportunity.
It doesn’t have to be like this. In a separate debate in Westminster, I listed several countries that allow asylum seekers to work, including Jordan, Turkey, Kenya and Uganda. I will be lobbying the government to learn from these positive examples when the Immigration Bill eventually appears.
Brexit and the ‘hostile environment’
After the UK leaves the EU, I am concerned that EU citizens will also be treated like unwelcome guests in an inhumane attempt to force them out of the country.
Many people in Bishopston are already feeling the pressure and have contacted me with worries about immigration status after March next year. I have taken these concerns to Parliament, meeting with ministers and asking questions in the House of Commons. I have received some important commitments. However, as negotiators in Brussels say, ‘nothing is agreed until it is all agreed,’ so I will keep the pressure up.
I believe the hostile treatment of people born outside this country lets down everyone. In Bristol, we prize our values of respect and dignity for all people.
As an MP, I can sometimes help resolve these cases. If the hostile environment policy affects you, please get in touch using the details on my website.