As ever there are a few things on my mind that I would like to share. Spring Housing was set up to support those in most housing need; as a direct result of this stated aim and through the localities in which we work over 40% of our customers are refugees. The whole issue of immigration is a hotly debated topic, politically, in our communities and at our dinner tables across Europe and beyond at the minute.

The Immigration Bill 2015 has been debated in the House of Commons recently.

The Bill is another in a long line of changes to immigration law which have introduced ever more draconian restrictions on migrants; it also effectively extends the enforcement of immigration laws beyond immigration officials. The latest Bill creates eight new criminal offences and those at risk of falling foul of the law include landlords, agents and employers. The Bill also extends the powers of immigration officials to arrest without warrant, enter and search premises and seize property. There are therefore many elements of the Bill which could be critically scrutinised. However, one section appears to have attracted more media attention than others.

The Bill proposes to introduce a new section 33A into the Immigration Act 2014 (yes, it’s been less than a year since the last piece of immigration legislation!). This section imposes liability on landlords where they ‘allow’ a disqualified adult from occupying a property or where a landlord knows or has reasonable cause to know that their premises are being occupied by a disqualified adult.

This is not the creation of new obligations on landlords. The Immigration Act 2014 had already introduced these provisions, but these were only applicable in certain areas of the West Midlands. The intention was to run a pilot study and for the Government to conduct a review of the operation of these in order to evaluate the impact. However, the Advisory Panel conducting the review has not yet published its findings and yet the Government are seeking to roll out the provisions across the rest of the country. Whatever your political affiliations this seems unwise at best.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) conducted research into the operation of the pilot ‘right to rent’ provisions under the Immigration Act 2014. The results are found that when attempting to comply with immigration legislation landlords made assumptions about a person’s immigration status based on discriminatory factors, such as a person’s name or accent. They found that guidance provided was unclear and landlords were not undertaking checks correctly due to finding them confusing.

“42% of landlords are unlikely to rent to those without British passports. Over 25% would be less likely to rent to someone with a foreign name or foreign accent. These checks are not being undertaken uniformly but are instead directed at certain individuals who appear ‘foreign’.”  Check out Crisis and their recent blog for some informed information on this this very issue:

http://www.crisis.org.uk/pressreleases.php/681/scheme-to-check-immigration-status-ofrenters-shows-alarming-impact-on-homelessness

Teresa May’s inflammatory speech about immigration at the Conservative Conference in Manchester as well as being quite frankly untruthful and misleading, is at odds with the reality on the ground. We are seeing a huge and understandable spike in asylum cases where it appears we are creating different classes of “worthy” asylum cases; the treatment for a Syrian is quite different from Libyan yet both are likely to be from similar conflicts in the same region.

It wasn’t so long ago across cities in the UK certain landlords displayed ‘No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish’ signs in their windows and we don’t appear to be too far away from that with this new legislation (albeit subtler). These new laws are creating blocks to housing and are effectively being sanctioned by our Government.

In the overall scheme of things we work in great examples of multi-cultural societies; Birmingham for example are doing some great work in this area and signed up recently to the Sanctuary initiative which marks an important step for the city and will help build partnerships and make a smoother journey for asylum seekers and refugees arriving here. The sanctuary scheme is designed to create a culture of welcome in our multi ethnic, multi-cultural city and promote the integration of new arrivals into social, economic and political life.

What is hardly ever mentioned in the media is the scale of the amazing humanity from the British people in response to the crisis. This has included donations of money, food, clothes, people giving their time volunteering, offering up rooms in their homes its simply awesome what individuals will do to help strangers in hours of need. All of this goes alongside huge efforts from local authorities and voluntary organisations in doing our bit, albeit I think all of us are feeling the strain at the minute.

Above all we must never forget that in the main immigration in our country has been an amazing success and has made Britain what it is today. Let’s hope rhetoric doesn’t defeat humanity in the coming months and years.

 

Author: Dominic Bradley

Managing Director