The Immigration Bill:
and legitimising discrimination
The Immigration Bill 2015 published on 17 September includes measures which force landlords to investigate whether their tenants are legal migrants and could land them with jail sentences of up to 5 years.
The Bill seeks to make eviction from the private rented sector simpler for private landlords if they are housing illegal migrants. Whilst there have been assurances from the Home Office that in Scotland this will include a court or tribunal process, the Bill is silent on this.
It gives the Secretary of State power to amend Scottish housing legislation by regulation rather than subjecting it to full scrutiny and debate by parliament. There are no Scottish details given and no mechanism for debate.
CEO Robert Aldridge said: ‘ The Bill makes landlords liable to imprisonment of up to 5 years for housing illegal migrants, and places a duty on them to be outposts of the Home Office with a duty to investigate the immigration status of their tenants.
‘We already know that there is considerable racial discrimination within the private rented sector. The risk landlords face will mean if there is a choice between someone who looks and sounds Scottish or someone who looks ‘foreign’ they will take the low risk option. By the back door it legitimises direct and indirect discrimination.
‘It poses a risk of identity theft since landlords will be required to keep copies of identity documents of their tenants for a year after they have left the property. Many landlords are not professional and may not be able to guarantee to keep these sensitive documents safe. A few have connections to organised crime, which makes the requirement on identity documents even more concerning.
‘The Bill also poses a risk to homeless people’s access to the private rented sector. Many will simply not have the identity documents required by the legislation. So landlords won’t take the risk of housing them. It will put increased pressure on front line homelessness services who are exempt from the provisions.
‘Landlords may also evict people living with a tenant who is an illegal migrant. This poses a considerable risk to people in shared tenancies, a growing part of the private rented sector for younger people.
‘The legislation does not cover people traffickers who do not charge rent. An unintended consequence will be to give them even greater power over the people they traffic, who will have no option of alternative accommodation.’
Robert Aldridge added ‘The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants conducted an evaluation of the pilot of the legislation in the West Midlands, which bore out many of the concerns highlighted above. An official evaluation of the pilot by the Home Office is ‘with Ministers’ and has not yet been published. It is poor government to press ahead with legislation before you know the outcome of its pilot.
If you have any thoughts or comments on this please contact Robert
New regulations are being implemented to help someone who is 'recently homeless' and is currently in a 'domestic emergency' when they are claiming JSA (Job Seekers Allowance).
Usually, without easement in place, a claimant must be:
- actively seeking work
- available to take up work immediately - any time of day, any day of the week
- prepared to take up a job that means working over or under 40 hours a week, if required
However, from 21st July.....................
for 'recently homeless' people easements can now be applied. In real terms this means (where agreed by a Work Coach) the claimant does not have to be actively seeking work, available for work, subject to Jobseeker's Direction and participate in any employment schemes, including the Work Programme, if they are 'recently homeless'.
This is in addition to the easement for claimants who have been affected by domestic violence that came into place some months ago.
So how does this work?
The Work Coach will agree a date (of no more than a fortnight) for the easement to be reviewed. During which time the claimant will be expected to take 'reasonable steps' to find accommodation. The claimant will be expected to show evidence of this accommodation search.
Examples of reasonable steps might include registering with the Local Authority, looking at rent deposit guarantee schemes, or meeting with a Housing Support Officer.
Examples of the evidence might include a confirmation of meetings or housing support.
Homeless Action Scotland
We are delighted that there has been change in the regulations, however we do have some concerns around the implementation of easement:
We recently met with the Head of the Labour Market, DWP where we raised the issue of unseen homelessness, in particular sofa surfing. We highlighted how there will be claimants who are sofa surfing who fall into the 'recently homeless' category, but a) it might not be that obvious to the claimant and b) the Work Coach might not understand that this is a form of homelessness, and as with people affected by other types of homelessness, the claimant's life may be very unsettled and they may not have the capacity to be searching for work full time.
We are working with the DWP to look to see how we can work to improve knowledge and understanding of Work Coaches around what homelessness is and how it affects claimants in Scotland, given that our homelessness situation and legislation is very different from the rest of the UK.