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It’s time to radically rethink our immigration system

Today marks one year since Sajid Javid was appointed Home Secretary. So far he has failed to live up to his promises.

Eiri Ohtani Satbir Singh Stephen Hale
30 April 2019
British citizen Amy Roberts (left) with her child and American husband Andrus. Amy doesn’t meet the UK government’s minimum income requirements to bring her family to the UK so she was forced to move to the U.S. for her family to stay together.
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Amy Roberts. All rights reserved.

One year ago today Sajid Javid was appointed as the UK’s Home Secretary. He said he wanted a “fair and humane” approach to immigration. His comments were very welcome and raised hopes of a fresh start. Though they were also received with some cynicism by activists and campaigners for a more humane immigration system.

Those who work in and around the immigration system know that it’s stacked against people who want to make a new life in the UK. From exorbitant fees to significant delays in getting a decision, all underpinned by the risk of detention and deportation if you slip up. Applying for any kind of immigration status in the UK is only easy for those with very deep pockets. But the new Home Secretary started by making the right noises. He refused to endorse the much-maligned net migration target and talked about Britain being open to talent from across the world. So we waited to see if he would take steps towards fixing the broken immigration system and introducing a new fair and humane approach.

But our hopes were dashed. Over the last 12 months the Home Secretary has failed to properly consult on his proposed new immigration system to manage migration post Brexit, instead opting for a year of so-called “engagement” around a salary-based approach. He has overseen the roll out of the highly controversial EU Settlement Scheme, the programme to register three million EU citizens. He spent the festive period warning potential asylum seekers making their way to the UK from Calais to return to France as they are not welcome here. He has also come under fire over the Windrush Compensation scheme and for imposing high fees on young people who came to the UK as toddlers when they apply for citizenship. Finally, he is appealing a High Court decision which judged that Right to Rent rules were causing racial discrimination.

Just this week an investigation into the Home Office's decision to cancel 36,000 student visas over accusations of cheating in English language tests has been launched and the Dublin Cessation Team, the central Home Office unit managing asylum claims, has purportedly been making mistakes due to “overworked, under-skilled, bullied and highly stressed caseworkers. People have been unlawfully detained as a result of these mistakes.

A year on, the promise of a fair and humane immigration system seems a long way off, but there is still time to turn this around. If Sajid Javid is still serious about his commitment, we stand ready to help fix the broken system.

We need to turn the immigration system on its head, to build an immigration system and an integration strategy which welcomes those who wish to make the UK their home and want to contribute to our great nation.

By positioning Britain as a place which attracts and nurtures talent; welcomes those who participate in our communities and offers a safe haven for those fleeing persecution we can create a system which works for all and saves money.

Civil society has plenty of ideas on how to do this. For example, over 170 charities and businesses have come together to highlight the benefits of allowing people who are seeking asylum to work. Migrants and refugees wanting to make the UK their new home tell us it’s difficult if you can’t contribute and care for yourself and your family. People don’t want to be a burden on the system, they want to contribute so we know that by investing in integration we can build more resilient communities. How we treat people while their cases are assessed needs to be in line with the rule of law. Across the legal profession there is agreement that there must be a 28-day time limit on detention. No one should be held without knowing when they will be released. The Home Office efforts to develop community-based alternatives to detention with civil society are welcome.

Every day we hear from communities who want to provide a welcome sanctuary to those most in need. This is why the Home Secretary should create a new resettlement programme to succeed the Syrian Resettlement Programme which is due to close shortly. We work alongside people - 'citizens of nowhere’ - who want to be New Brits and could be helped on this journey by creating faster and more cost-effective routes to citizenship.

We will continue to make the case for a fair and humane immigration system, for the sake of those let down by current arrangements and for the wider benefits of this to the UK. Together we can create a better system for people who wish to migrate and it can’t come a moment too soon.

Please sign this petition asking the government to scrap the minimum income requirement which prevents British people who earn less than £18,600 a year from living with their partner from outside the EU in the UK.

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