Author: Tim Wyatt
Almost one in five MPs have now signed a pledge to never report a constituent to the immigration authorities in response to a charity campaign.
A coalition of migrant advocacy groups – including Liberty, Migrant Rights Network and Global Justice Now – have called to MPs to promise to never inform on migrants who ask them for help.
The campaign, “MPs Not Border Guards”, has written to the Speaker of the House of Commons, demanding that he intervene to stop the practice.
Exclusive figures revealed by The Independent in June showed that MPs had reported 723 suspected illegal immigrants to the Home Office between 2012 and 2017.
Currently, 113 out of the 650 MPs have signed the pledge to protect those with uncertain immigration status who approach them at constituency surgeries.
The majority are from Labour, along with 25 from the Scottish National Party and eight Liberal Democrats. Only one Conservative – Heidi Allen – has added her name.
More than 3,200 people have also emailed their own MP to ask them to join the campaign, the MPs Not Border Guards website says.
In a letter to John Bercow, the coalition of charities wrote: “Many of those reported will have been vulnerable migrants, approaching their MP in the hope of getting support for their immigration cases. Instead of finding assistance, care and discretion, the conduct expected of an MP, these individuals are having their trust betrayed.
“We are calling on you as Speaker of the House of Commons to act to immediately remedy the situation and protect those thousands of individuals that find themselves with nowhere to turn. We ask that you raise this issue in the house at the earliest opportunity, and request that party whips instruct their MPs to immediately cease the practice.”
Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who is backing the campaign, said he was “astonished” that any MP would “shop” a constituent to the authorities.
“Many of those immigrants who may be here illegally will be victims of administrative error, dodgy solicitors or even human trafficking,” he told the BBC.
The chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Satbir Singh, said that if MPs continued to inform on migrants who asked them for advice, they would drive vulnerable people “further underground and into the shadows”.
He said: “MPs should not be taking it upon themselves to act as border guards, betraying the trust of their constituents and perpetuating a culture of hostility towards migrants. Have we not learnt anything from the scandal and tragedy of Windrush?”
But some MPs disagreed. Tory Christopher Chope said that he had personally called the immigration hotline.
“I have reported cases of immigration crime on behalf of constituents who have felt their neighbours are engaged in illegal working when they shouldn’t have been in the country,” he told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. “Home Office policy is very much to ensure that, as far as possible, life is made uncomfortable for those one million illegals, so that they will be encouraged to go back to where they came from rather than be a burden on our public services here.”