At our premises in Moss Side, we have been receiving dozens of inquiries from our local community worried about their immigration status. If you a commonwealth citizen affected by the current treatment of the Windrush generation, you can find more information here.
Whilst we help those in difficulty in their individual cases, it is also vital to challenge wider immigration policy and the hostile environment.
“Racism has always been used to divide and rule. Half a century of immigration laws in this country have reinforced this – Indian vs West Indian, African vs Australian, good (often white) migrants vs bad migrants” says GMLC Chair John Nicholson in a recent letter published in the Independent.
“The scandal that has come to light affecting the Windrush generation is appalling. We should support all those both directly and indirectly affected.”
This means more than providing legal services for individuals. “We can’t just scrabble to give advice to people queuing out the door. The focus needs to be on challenging legislation and the treatment of migrants as a whole” says GMLC employee Roz Burgin.
The public is on our side
There has been outrage at the recent scandal affecting the Windrush generation, so the public is on our side. But this is only the tip of the iceberg of poor Home Office decisions, which have included “foreign national prisoners” facing double punishment of prison and deportation, bad treatment of children who have been born here and elderly dependent relatives. One Home Office representative referred to such people as “low hanging fruit”, ie. easy to round up and remove. And now the Home Office is saying it cannot deal with other cases on time because it is too busy clearing up its own mess over Windrush.
Simply put, these policies aren’t anomalies, they’re part of a purposefully-created hostile environment.
“What we are seeing is the victimisation of various sections of society, from the sick, disabled and unemployed or low paid, through to migrants from the commonwealth countries of the British empire, particularly those who are of African Caribbean or Asian heretage, purely for political gain.”
Repeal the 1981 British Nationality Act
“We need a commitment to repeal the immigration laws which are inherently racist. Why not start with the commitment to repeal the 1981 British Nationality Act and replace it with a citizenship law that does not discriminate against either women or black and Asian Britons?” says John Nicholson.
The role of Law Centres
Law Centres have played a vital role in challenging legislation and policy through strategic litigation as well as wider campaigning. See an explanation of strategic litigation written by a GMLC volunteer here.
Such methods can make significant changes in legislation, policy or procedure. This is achieved by taking carefully-selected cases to court, against the background of a wider campaign. The outcome can created lasting changes not only for the individuals involved but for everybody facing the same issue.
“We can’t just scrabble to give advice to people queuing out the door. The focus needs to be on challenging legislation and the treatment of migrants as a whole” – GMLC employee Roz Burgin