Skip to main content

Immgration The Tories’ ‘hostile environment’ is not new

Although racist government policies have hit spotlight recently, they’ve been a long time in the making, says PAUL DONOVAN

ANTI-MIGRANT policies that led to the Windrush debacle have been developing in the shadows of the Home Office for two decades.

The recent scandal that has seen members of the Windrush generation being deported after many years of working here rightly caused outrage.

The concern, though, is that this occurrence is being viewed as an aberration, not part of a bigger picture.

This action is not an isolated happening but the result of an anti-migrant policy that has been running for the past couple of decades in the Home Office.

After September 11 2001, the then Labour government reacted with draconian measures, cutting civil liberties and effectively creating a system of detention without trial. 

A number of foreign nationals were incarcerated in the prisons, without due course of law. The cases were dealt with under immigration law overseen by the special immigration appeals commission.

The House of Lords eventually ruled against detention, thereby leading on to the control order system under which individuals were restricted as to where and when they could go. 

This process continued for many years, with those concerned not being made party to what they were actually accused of.

The governments of the day were clamouring to deport individuals, who had sometimes come seeking and been granted asylum, back to the countries from where they came. Algeria and Libya were among those countries.

Covering a number of these cases over the years in the media, it became apparent that a whole shadow system of justice was being developed under the aegis of the Home Office.

It effectively developed under the radar, including in its ambit the detention of growing number of refugees for indefinite amounts of time.

This process was the antecedent of the “hostile environment” for migrants that has actually been named and taken on further over the past few years.

Some of the anti-migrant sentiments that came around the time of the EU referendum spurred the policy on, allowing those in charge to bring it out of the shadows into a more prominent light.

The result has been the grotesque sight of hard-working people who came to Britain to contribute to the common good of these islands being subjected to loss of rights and status and forced return to lands where they have not lived for many years.

It is a low point for the reputation of Britain, something that will take some time to overcome.

Failure to do so will see migrants stopping coming to what is increasingly being perceived as a very real hostile environment. There is plenty of evidence that this is already happening.

Britain relies on migrant labour to keep its public services running. As the population here ages, that labour has become ever more vital. Those migrants will not be coming if they are treated as little more than criminals in return for their efforts.

The Windrush debacle has exposed a more than 20-year policy. Things can only be put right with a total sea change in the way migrants are viewed — a bit of tinkering with one policy affecting the Windrush generation is not sufficient.

The whole edifice that has created and fed the “hostile environment” needs to be dismantled with a more open, inclusive and welcoming attitude taken to migrants coming here.

For more of Paul Donovan’s writing visit


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 16,214
We need:£ 1,791
4 Days remaining
Donate today