The UK Immigration Bill and EU law

immigration bill and EU lawDr Iyiola Solanke

My government will bring forward a bill that further reforms Britain’s immigration system. The bill will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.’

Every government in the post-WWII period has promised to reform the immigration system. Fortunately words have been chosen carefully – none promise to improve it. In times past, governments have tried to gain support for stricter immigration controls with a ‘sweetener’, usually in the form of simultaneous promises to improve integration. This trend is visible in the Queens Speech of May 8th, but the tone is quite different: previously, equality was promoted as a right; for the Coalition ‘fairness’ is a reward for those who ‘work hard’. In short, the Coalition ‘is committed to a fairer society where aspiration and responsibility are rewarded.’

Yet this fair treatment does not extend to immigrants who the Coalition plan to subject to further unfair treatment at the hands of private landlords. The intention is to impose upon landlords a requirement to check the immigration status of tenants or face heavy fines. It is not clear which of the above reform goals this is designed to address: it seems to be a general measure to disseminate throughout society a message of ‘crimmigration’ – the criminalization of immigration whereby those who cross borders are per se regarded as a security threat and subjected to constant policing and monitoring.

Many have already questioned how this duty will work, given that there is no current register of the millions of private landlords in the country. Why should they make the effort to comply, even with the threat of fines? In order to make such sanctions effective they will have to be closely enforced; surely it will undermine the Conservative goal of reducing ‘red tape’ to introduce the necessary enforcement regime? Furthermore, given that discrimination on the grounds of nationality has been prohibited under EU law since 1957, can the government introduce a measure which explicitly targets non-nationals, including those arriving from the European Union?

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