Home Office hostile environment policy

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The UK Home Office hostile environment policy is a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make staying in the United Kingdom as difficult as possible for people without leave to remain, in the hope that they may "voluntarily leave".[1][2][3][4][5] The Home Office policy originated from a June 2009 UK Border Agency ruling.[6] The ruling later went into effect in October 2010,[6] after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to power, with David Cameron as Prime Minister and Theresa May as Home Secretary.[6][1][7] The policy was widely seen as being part of a strategy of reducing UK immigration figures to the levels promised in the 2010 Conservative Party Election Manifesto.[8][9][10]

According to remarks made by May at the time, "The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants".[1][11]


The policy includes the removal of homeless European Union citizens.[2][12][13] Additionally, through the implementation of the Immigration Act 2014 and Immigration Act 2016, the policy includes requirements for landlords, the NHS, charities, community interest companies and banks to carry out ID checks.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

The policy also implemented a more complicated application process to get 'leave to remain' based on the principle of 'deport first, appeal later', whilst encouraging voluntary deportation though strategies including "Go Home" vans as part of "Operation Vaken", as well as adverts in newspapers, shops, and charity and faith buildings used by ethnic minorities.[21][22][23][24]

In 2018 the Home Office lost 75% of their appeals against applicants for refugee status who challenged rejections by the Home Office.[25] Sonya Sceats, the chief executive of Freedom from Torture, said:

Long drawn-out legal processes are traumatic for anyone, let alone those who have fled persecution. Having an impartial judge accept that you are at risk of torture or death if you are forced back, only to have this challenged all over again by the Home Office before yet another appeal panel, can have devastating consequences ... important questions must be asked about the necessity for, and humanity of, these appeals.[25]

A 2018 governmental review revealed the UK Home Office had tried to deport at least 300 highly skilled migrants (including teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals) under the 322(5) provision, at least 87 successfully. This mostly affected people who had lived in the UK for more than 10 years and have children born in the UK. Many were given only 14 days to leave the UK and were made ineligible to apply for visas to return. The review found that 65% of 322(5) decisions were overturned out by an upper tribunal and 45% of applicants for judicial review were successful (28% of judicial reviews find in favour of the defendant). Additionally the review found that 32% of “complex cases” were wrongly decided. [26]


The policy has been criticised for being unclear, has led to many incorrect threats of deportation and has been called "Byzantine" by the England and Wales Court of Appeal for its complexity.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33] It has led to the under-reporting of crime against undocumented people in the UK due to a fear of arrest and deportation of the victims.[2][34][35][36][37] Over half of UK police forces hand over the identities of victims of crimes to the Home Office immigration enforcement.[38] In February 2018 Members of Parliament called for a review of the policy.[39][40]

Medical professionals have criticised the hostile environment for putting at risk, or even damaging, people's health because it leads to individuals avoiding visiting doctors due to fears of having their details passed on to the Home Office, or concerns they will be unable to afford the medical bills.[41] Even within its own regulations, the hostile environment has led to people being wrongly denied urgent healthcare.[41]

Charities, campaigners and landlords have criticised the hostile environment within the Right to Rent scheme, saying it is 'unlawful and discriminates against tenants on the basis of their race or nationality', and that it contributes to homelessness.[41][42]

The immigration lawyer and campaigner Colin Yeo described the effect of the policy as: "the creation of an illegal underclass of foreign, mainly ethnic minority workers and families who are highly vulnerable to exploitation and who have no access to the social and welfare safety net."[43]

In December 2018, the first ever super-complaint against the police forces of England and Wales was lodged in relation an outcome of the "hostile environment" policy: the transfer, by police to immigration authorities, of the data of victims and witnesses of crime.[44]

Also in December 2018, it emerged that enforcement of the "hostile environment" policy in one part of the UK government - the Home Office - was dooming to failure initiatives championed and funded by other parts of the UK government.[45]

Windrush scandal[edit]

The policy led to issues with the Windrush generation and other Commonwealth citizens not being able to prove their right to remain in the UK.[22] The resulting Windrush scandal led to the resignation of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary, on 29 April 2018, and the appointment of Sajid Javid as her successor.[46][47][48]

In comments seen by the press as distancing himself from his predecessor as Home Secretary, Theresa May, Javid told Parliament that "I don't like the phrase hostile. So the terminology I think is incorrect and I think it is a phrase that is unhelpful and it doesn't represent our values as a country", preferring the term "compliant environment" instead.[21][49][50] However, former officials from the Home Office have said that "She's (Theresa May) wedded to the hostile environment albeit with a different name. It's going to be difficult for any home secretary to put their own stamp on things."[21] Javid "stopped short of rowing back from the meat of the hostile environment policy, insisting that tackling illegal immigration is vital."[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Hill, Amelia (2017-11-28). "'Hostile environment': the hardline Home Office policy tearing families apart". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  2. ^ a b c "How Theresa May's "hostile environment" created an underworld". Newstatesman.com. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  3. ^ "Inspection report of hostile environment measures, October 2016 - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  4. ^ Letters (2018-04-15). "A Home Office humanity test | Letters". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  5. ^ Channel 4 News (2018-05-20), Highly-skilled migrants told to leave UK under ‘hostile environment’ policy, retrieved 2018-05-20
  6. ^ a b c "Windrush: Theresa May hits back at Labour over landing cards". BBC. April 18, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  7. ^ Hill, Amelia (2018-06-20). "Minister accused of misleading MPs in deportations row". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  8. ^ Hill, Amelia (2017-11-28). "'Hostile environment': the hardline Home Office policy tearing families apart". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  9. ^ editorial, Observer (2018-04-15). "The Observer view on the UK's increasingly harsh immigration policy | Observer editorial". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  10. ^ "What is the 'hostile environment' policy?". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  11. ^ Slawson, Nicola (2018-05-23). "Ex-mayor of Ipswich denied citizenship after almost 40 years in UK". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  12. ^ Younge, Gary (2018-04-13). "Hounding Commonwealth citizens is no accident. It's cruelty by design". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  13. ^ "Hostile environment 2.0: Post-Brexit migration plans are all too familiar". politics.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  14. ^ "Banks run immigration checks in Home Office crackdown". Sky News. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  15. ^ "Is our personal data fair game in the drive to create Theresa May's "hostile environment" for migrants?". Opendemocracy.net. 2018-01-24. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  16. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa (2018-03-28). "EU parents warned children need papers to stay in UK after Brexit". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  17. ^ Gentleman, Amelia (2018-04-12). "Caribbean nations demand solution to 'illegal immigrants' anomaly". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  18. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  19. ^ "Another blow for May's hostile environment for immigrants". Global Justice Now. 2018-02-20. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  20. ^ "Statewatch News Online: UK: "Hostile environment" faces criticism from parliamentary committee as new migration checks on bank accounts come into force". Statewatch.org. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  21. ^ a b c d Grierson 2018.
  22. ^ a b "What is the 'hostile environment' policy?". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  23. ^ Gentleman, Amelia; Bannock, Caroline (2018-05-16). "Footage emerges of 'distressing' home visit by immigration officers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
  24. ^ Siddique, Haroon (2018-05-18). "Sierra Leonean athlete can stay in UK after three-year legal fight". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-19.
  25. ^ a b Taylor, Diane (2018-09-03). "Home Office loses 75% of its appeals against immigration rulings". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-03.
  26. ^ Hill, Amelia (2018-11-23). "Home Office tried to deport 300 skilled migrants under terrorism law". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  27. ^ "Britain's immigration system 'too open to error', MPs warn". The Independent. 2018-01-14. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  28. ^ "Home Office urged to stop 'inhumane' immigration checks on bank accounts". The Independent. 2017-12-19. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  29. ^ "the3million | preserving the rights of EU citizens living in the UK". The3million | preserving the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  30. ^ Taylor, Diane (2018-04-04). "Disabled Briton held in immigration removal centre for four months". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  31. ^ "The Home Office must drop 'hostile environment' approach for Brexit". The Institute for Government. 2018-04-13. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  32. ^ "The fightback against May's hostile environment has begun". politics.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  33. ^ Colin Yeo, 'How complex is UK immigration law and is this a problem?' (24/01/18) on Free Movement
  34. ^ "May's Past Bites Her as Minister Admits Wrongful Deportations". Bloomberg.com. 2018-04-16. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  35. ^ "'Windrush generation' deportation threat". BBC News. 2018-04-11. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  36. ^ Gentleman, Amelia; Crerar, Pippa (2018-04-16). "Amber Rudd pledges action to resolve status of Windrush citizens". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  37. ^ "No recourse to public funds: How the UK's hostile environment policy is driving people into destitution". Holyrood Magazine. 2018-01-17. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  38. ^ Taylor, Diane (2018-05-14). "Victims of crime being handed over to immigration enforcement". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-14.
  39. ^ "MPs call for review into May's 'hostile environment' for migrants". politics.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  40. ^ Weale, Sally (2018-05-09). "Children 'denied free school meals because of parents' immigration status'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  41. ^ a b c S. Usborne, 'How the hostile environment crept into UK schools, hospitals and homes' (01/08/18) in The Guardian
  42. ^ P. Butler, 'Court challenge to hostile environment tenancy scheme begins' (18/12/18) in The Guardian
  43. ^ Ward, Jon (2017-06-03). "The hostile environment: what is it and who does it affect?". Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  44. ^ Editor, Mark Townsend Home Affairs (15 December 2018). "Police face first 'super-complaint' over immigration referrals". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  45. ^ Weaver, Matthew (16 December 2018). "UK efforts in Iraq 'hindered by hostile immigration policy'" – via www.theguardian.com.
  46. ^ Grierson, Jamie (2018-05-25). "Number of Windrush cases passes 5,000". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  47. ^ McFadyen, Gillian. "Home Office routinely disbelieves people – even those claiming asylum from persecution". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  48. ^ Syal, Rajeev (2018-06-10). "Theresa May defends UK government's Windrush response". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-06-10.
  49. ^ "Sajid Javid says Theresa May's 'hostile' immigration rhetoric is not British". The Independent. 2018-04-30. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  50. ^ Editorial, Reuters. "New home secretary Javid opposes 'hostile environment' approach to immigration". U.K. Retrieved 2018-05-01.

Further reading[edit]

Grierson, Jamie (27 August 2018), "Hostile environment: anatomy of a policy disaster", The Guardian, archived from the original on 27 August 2018