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May's migrant rent checks are racist, High Court rules

Judge tears apart key policy of PM's ‘hostile environment’ policy

A CORE part of PM Theresa May’s hostile environment immigration policy was demolished by a High Court judge today, who ruled that it promotes racism.

Mr Justice Spencer found the government is breaching human rights law by demanding that landlords in England check the immigration status of their tenants.

He also passed an order halting the roll-out of the scheme to the rest of Britain, warning that it is an unlawful policy that must be repealed immediately.

In his ruling, the judge said: “What the experience of the last few years has shown is that any scheme of this kind will inexorably lead landlords down the path of discrimination."

The so-called Right to Rent scheme was introduced as part of the Immigration Act 2014, a draconian law drafted by Ms May when she was Home Secretary.

Under the law, private landlords face unlimited fines and even jail if they lease their property to undocumented migrants.

The claim against the Home Office was brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).

Welcoming the judgment, the group’s legal policy director Chai Patel said: “There is no place for racism in the UK housing market.

“Now that the High Court has confirmed Theresa May’s policy actively causes discrimination, Parliament must act immediately to scrap it.

“But we all know that this sort of discrimination, caused by making private individuals into border guards, affects almost every aspect of public life – it has crept into our banks, hospitals, and schools.

“Today’s judgment only reveals the tip of the iceberg and demonstrates why the hostile environment must be dismantled.”

Research by campaigners found that this led to discrimination against foreign nationals and ethnic minority citizens who were in the country legally.

Mr Justice Spencer said MPs “who voted in favour of the scheme would be aghast to learn of its discriminatory effect.”

He added: “In my judgement the evidence, when taken together, strongly showed not only that landlords are discriminating against potential tenants on grounds of nationality and ethnicity but also that they are doing so because of the scheme.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, Liberty and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) all supported the court challenge. RLA’s policy manager John Stewart said: “Today’s ruling is a damning critique of a flagship government policy.

“We have warned all along that turning landlords into untrained and unwilling border police would lead to the exact form of discrimination the court has found.

“We call on the government to accept the decision, scrap the Right to Rent, and consider what else can be done to sensibly manage migration, without having to rely on untrained landlords to do the job of the Home Office.”

Labour’s London Assembly housing spokesperson Tom Copley AM said: “Right to Rent checks discriminate against people from ethnic minority groups and anyone without a British passport. The impact of Right to Rent has been most keenly felt in a multicultural city like London.
 
“In light of this damning judgment, the government should now move quickly to comply with the law and end the ‘hostile environment’ policy once and for all.”

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