British prime minister Boris Johnson’s plan to set up a new department for borders and immigration has some experts fearing that the reach of the hostile environment would be expanded.
Johnson is said to be formulating proposals to crate an immigration and visa system separate from the Home Office.
While this has the potential to make the whole system more fair, some campaigners and lawyers believe that the focus would be more on border control.
Tanja Bueltmann, an academic specialising in migration, fears the focus of the new department would be on limiting numbers.
“It will expand the structural reach of the hostile environment,” she was quoted as saying by the Independent on Monday (16). “We’re setting up another government department to look after, by the sounds of it, another aspect of immigration management. This would give the hostile environment even more oomph,” she said.
“We have to wait and see, but if you look at the US for example, you’ve got the Department of Homeland Security and then the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (Ice). I’d be paying attention to whether this is going to turn into something like that.”
Omar Khan, director of the Runnymede Trust, meanwhile, said a new department was unlikely to learn lessons from previous mistakes such as the Windrush scandal.
“The culture of a department is driven partly by its aims and objects, and driving numbers down is quite clearly going to be the focus of this immigration department. They’re not going to be to look holistically and the human beings in front of them,” he said.
“That was the major problem with Windrush. People were ignoring the merits of the case. But they haven’t even learnt from the mistakes from the past on all of that. We had Mr Johnson himself basically saying that migrants don’t belong here last week.
“We’ve said before that it’s time to shut the Home Office down. But as long as the attitude is sceptical, and as long as it’s about driving numbers down, the institutional machinery doesn’t really matter.”