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UN Special Rapporteur Criticises Hostile Environment Policy

(Pictured: Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume (centre), Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance)


The recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on racism highlights destructive repercussions of the ‘hostile environment’ on the lives and livelihoods of racial and ethnic minority communities in the UK, urging the government to abandon the policy.

The report sought to assess the authorities’ efforts to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

It concluded that whilst the UK shows some leadership in racial equality, particularly regarding the Race Disparity Audit, there is still much to be done.

The report as a whole underscores racial inequality present in the UK, focused on the racial impact of austerity measures, criminal justice law and policy, laws and policies on counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, and laws and policies on immigration.

Some key points:

  1. The UK has many policies that seek to protect human rights, equality, non-discrimination and tolerance, including the new Integrated Communities Action Plan, however the ‘United Kingdom still has not adopted a country-wide strategy or action plan that addresses racial discrimination and inequality in a comprehensive fashion’
  2. A clear finding was made that ‘austerity measures in the United Kingdom are reinforcing racial subordination’ and that in relation to criminal proceedings ‘There can be no question that a pervasive and officially tolerated culture of racial profiling is at work in certain police forces, and that racial and ethnic minority children and youth are among the most vulnerable.’
  3. The comments on the hostile environment include that it is ‘effectively transforming places like hospitals, banks and private residences into border checkpoints.
  4. The Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016 are described as the ‘rotten core’ of the hostile environment programme, and it is stated that ‘shifting from the rhetoric from “hostile environment” to “compliance environment” will have little effect if the underlying legislative framework remains intact.’ ‘In general, civil society consultations confirmed documented concerns that asylum seekers and refugees experience extreme hardship in securing decent, dignified livelihoods, and have limited access to basic services across the United Kingdom.
  5. The report provided a list of clear recommendations including the need to ‘Assess and eliminate the racially disparate impact of immigration laws and policies. Repeal those aspects of its immigration law and policy framework that deputize immigration enforcement to private citizens and civil servants responsible for delivering vital public and social services.’


The report compounds pressure on the Home Office to take stronger action to mitigate damage caused by the hostile environment, and to propose changes in legislation required to facilitate that change.

The report adds weight to submissions for clients suffering as a result of the hostile environment as well as placing further pressure on the Home Office to take more direct action and amend legislation.

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