Author: MADELEINE DAVIES
ADVICE on how religious groups can organise against the Government’s “hostile environment” policy will be offered this month at an event that seeks to ensure that the fight for migrants’ rights continues after the Windrush campaign fades from the headlines.
“Beyond Windrush: Building the movement for migrants’ rights” will bring together activist groups including Docs Not Cops, which will discuss “how to fight back against racist immigration checks and upfront charging in the NHS”, and Schools Against Borders for Children, which will present “lessons from a successful campaign against data collection in schools”.
The sessions on “organising against the hostile environment through faith institutions” will be led by Migrants Organise.
On Wednesday, the advocacy and campaigns officer at Migrants Organise, Akram Salhab, described how the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts had been “unprecedented” in attempting to “recruit doctors, nurses, landlords . . . to be undertaking immigration enforcement”. This had raised awareness of the Hostile Environment policy, he said, and revealed that “lots of people don’t like it”.
Efforts are under way to lobby councils to distance themselves from the policy. In Haringey, London, the group Haringey Welcome is seeking to make the borough “an inclusive, just, and safer place by signing up to the shared values and principles of dignity and respect for all, protection not destitution, and welcome and integration”. It is urging the council to “make a clear separation between its role as a local authority and the ‘immigration enforcement’ being undertaken”.
The response of many councillors to the campaign was “We didn’t know”, Mr Salhab said. “What the Windrush cases have demonstrated is that the only way this policy can be successful is if a majority of people in this country are not told about it and are kept in the dark.” Policies applied to migrants, such as charging for NHS treatment, could be extended to the wider population, he said. Councils could use controlling migration funds on work to integrate and support migrants, including those who faced destitution if found ineligible for access to public funds, he said.
“Hostile environment” is an umbrella term for a set of policies and legislative measures designed to make it as difficult as possible for those without leave to remain to stay in the country, with the aim of achieving the Government’s manifesto pledge to reduce immigration figures. Mr Salhab said that up to one in 65 people could fall into one of three affected categories: undocumented migrants, under-documented migrants, and those with no recourse to public funds.
Cathedral project offers English lessons. Hundreds of women in Essex have been taught English through a project started at Chelmsford Cathedral by a German-born ordinand, Heike Prentice.
Ms Prentice started the project English for Women in 2015, after meeting an Afghan woman at the cathedral. Starting with just three Afghan refugee families, it has since outgrown its space at the cathedral, and now offers three two-hour conversation-based lessons every week to women (and often their children) from 31 countries.
Fifty volunteers help to deliver the project to about 100 learners per term, at Chelmsford YMCA. Ms Prentice will be ordained in St Paul’s Cathedral later this month.