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‘Sweeping changes’ to immigration system pushed ‘through the back door’

MINISTERS have been accused of introducing “sweeping changes” to the immigration system “through the back door,” including rules that will allow rough sleepers to be deported. 

The changes to immigration rules, detailed in a 500-page report, were quietly released on Thursday and set out the government’s new “points-based” immigration system due to come into effect on January 1. 

Under the changes, being a rough sleeper will become grounds to refuse permission to stay in Britain or existing permission to be cancelled. 

The new policy has been described by charities as a “huge step backwards,” “unacceptable” and “cruel.”

The changes will also see thresholds on criminality tightened, meaning that people who have received sentences of 12 months or more, are persistent offenders or have caused serious harm will face mandatory refusals, differing from the current system where the last two are discretionary. 

The vast majority of the new rules will come into effect on December 1, while others will come into force on December 31. 

Laying the changes to Parliament, Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said the new rules were a “crucial part” of the government’s new points-based immigration system, and a “significant further step in our commitment to simplify the rules.” 

However the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants accused ministers of introducing a whole new immigration system “through the back door” in the “midst of Covid-19 and with attempts to get a Brexit deal in tatters.”

The group’s public affairs and campaigns manager Minnie Rahman said: “There has been no stakeholder consultation. Urgent deep-rooted reforms to Home Office culture and practices, widely recommended and intended to fix the system and prevent anything like the Windrush scandal happening again, have been disregarded.

“Leaving the EU should have prompted the government to create a better immigration system. 

“Instead, the new rules do nothing to solve existing problems: rather than taking the opportunity to treat all migrants as well as Europeans were treated before Brexit, the government has chosen to level down and further restrict opportunities and rights for everyone who moves here.”

The new points-based system will see minimum salary income requirements raised and EU citizens subjected to the same immigration enforcement rules as non-EU nationals. 

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