The number of times MPs have reported migrants using the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement hotline has almost doubled in less than two years, EachOther can reveal.
Government data obtained under freedom of information laws shows that MPs have made 134 reports to immigration enforcement so far this year, up from 101 in 2018 and 70 the previous year. This increase comes after 135 MPs signed a pledge last year promising not to inform on their constituents.
Grassroots charity Migrants Organise is leading a campaign called MPs not Border Guards which seeks to put an end to this practice, concerned that it deters vulnerable people from seeking help for fear of being detained. It argues that everyone should have the right to safely meet their MP without fear of being deported.
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“The fact that this “Hostile Environment” policy is implemented by MPs in this way is discriminatory and dangerous,” said Zrinka Balo, the group’s chief executive.
“The Windrush scandal has provided tragic evidence of how unjust, cruel and dysfunctional the immigration system is. MPs should know better and must take a stand to protect their constituents and maintain the ethical standards expected of them as public representatives.”
The term “hostile environment” refers to a set of immigration policies introduced in 2012 to make life as unbearable as possible for undocumented migrants in the UK. Campaign groups have called for an end to these policies arguing they are denying migrants the ability to enjoy fundamental human rights.
Immigration tip-offs by MPs first came under parliamentary scrutiny in October last year after a series of written questions, submitted following a Politics.co.uk investigation, revealed MPs across party lines had made nearly 70 referrals in 2017.
Some MPs have defended their use of the hotline, saying they have used it to report immigration crimes on behalf of concerned constituents rather than those seeking help. EachOther understands that the Home Office figures do not distinguish between these two different reasons for referral.
In response to the most recent FOI request, submitted by EachOther, the Home Office did not break down the referrals that it received from MPs this year by political party.
More than 55,600 reports have been made to the Home Office’s immigration enforcement hotline in total so far in 2019. The number of referrals from Home Office immigration caseworkers has more than doubled, from 642 in 2018 to 1,385 this year.
Concerns have been raised over the quality of Home Office decision-making on immigration and asylum applications. For the first time ever, a majority (52 percent) of Home Office immigration decisions were successfully overturned when challenged in court in the year to March 2019, according to Ministry of Justice figures. This is up from 39 percent three years earlier.
The biggest source of referrals comes from the general public at 65 percent, while other sources include the Department of Work and Pensions, HMRC, Crimestoppers, and the police.
The Home Office was contacted for comment.