Joint Public Issues Team Blog

Joint Public Issues Team Blog

Should the government’s power ever be used to create destitution?

Posted: 21 Aug 2018 05:10 AM PDT

Twenty Church leaders have written to Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to call for an end to the Government’s hostile environment immigration policy because “it is inhumane to use destitution, or the threat of destitution, as a policy tool to encourage people to leave the country.”

As we outline in our report, the hostile environment deliberately uses destitution to encourage those without the legal right to be in the UK to leave.

Despite the intentions of the policy, there has been no increase in voluntary departures from the UK since the hostile environment was rolled out in 2012. Instead, it has simply increased levels of suffering and destitution. This is the case for Zaza, for whom asylum was refused but whose country of origin – Turkey – is too dangerous for him to return to. Zaza cannot leave so instead he is forced to remain in the UK without the right to work, rent, open a bank account or receive any help from the state. He is even denied free access to the NHS.

As a Christian, as a human, I find it shocking that destitution might ever become a legitimate policy tool, yet the hostile environment is not the only area where we see this being used.×120.jpg 300w,×307.jpg 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px” />
The hostile environment denies those who can’t prove their legal right to be in the UK the right to housing

Look at our benefit system. Sanctions deliberately punish people by taking away their benefits. As Universal Credit is rolled out across the country, sanctions are a threat becoming ever more widespread. Universal Credit has the highest rate of sanctions of any UK benefit.

We have heard countless stories of people going hungry because of their benefits being removed by sanction. The DWP maintains that this deprivation – often leading to destitution – is an appropriate way to ensure people obey the instructions of the Jobcentre.

Why? Because the DWP’s focus is not whether families are going hungry. Rather it is ensuring that people comply with the demands of the Jobcentre in the belief that this will move them into work.

Both here and in the policies of the hostile environment we see a worrying trend moving away from the state as a backstop, upholding the welfare of all, and towards the state’s machinery being used to enforce behaviour change by means of deprivation.×601.png 768w, 800w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />

Deprivation may be an abstract term to those who are writing it into policy, but for those living with the realities of it, it is the grind of finding ways to survive each day without enough.

When we asked Zaza about this reality he told us that “destitution kills you”.

In God’s house there are many rooms, there is abundance, and how I wish that our world were in a state where we could call for abundance for all. One day, I pray that we might be calling for abundance. For now, I would just like to see the 2000 foodbanks in the UK close due to lack of demand. For everyone to have enough.

Enough for those families working full-time on minimum wage who are still falling short of enough. Enough for those migrants living on sofas and streets and in substandard accommodation. Enough for those families for whom their welfare payments are late or mispaid or insufficient.

Join me as we pray and act for enough:

Take action today

Read Church leaders’ letter to the Home Secretary

The post Should the government’s power ever be used to create destitution? appeared first on Joint Public Issues Team.

Church leaders ask Home Secretary for end to hostile environment:

Posted: 21 Aug 2018 04:31 AM PDT

Twenty Church leaders have called for an end to the hostile environment in an open letter to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP.

The hostile environment is the web of government policies designed to make life so difficult for people who cannot prove they have the right to live in the UK that they will choose to leave.

The leaders, including representatives from the Anglican, Catholic, Church of Scotland and Methodist Churches, argue that the destitution deliberately inflicted by the government is ‘inhumane’ and that it leads to racial discrimination. They ask Javid “to seize this opportunity and to adopt an approach to immigration that treats every individual, whatever their status, with humanity, dignity, respect and fairness.”

Is it any wonder that Churches are speaking out about immigration policy? In Glasgow up to 300 asylum seekers who have had their right to remain turned down are under threat of being evicted from their homes. Once evicted they will lose the right to housing and will be faced with homelessness and destitution. Housing charity Shelter Scotland has filed papers at Glasgow Sheriff Court to prevent two tenants being issued with so-called lock-change orders.

The issue will also be raised in the Court of Session in Edinburgh after a case was lodged by Govan Law Centre, which is also trying to prevent the evictions by Serco.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said: “The Church of Scotland is deeply, deeply concerned at plans to evict up to 300 asylum seekers from their homes in Glasgow… many of those facing eviction have already needed to flee their homes in the past from appalling violence, terror and war. It is unacceptable that this should be happening.”

Open letter to the Home Secretary:

Dear Home Secretary

We are writing as a group of Churches and Church Leaders to express our deep concern about the impact of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policies, and to support calls for them to be dismantled. We welcome the recent report from the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church: Destitution, Discrimination and Distrust: the web of the hostile environment, and support its conclusions.

The injustices of the hostile environment alarm us. It deliberately prevents people who cannot provide the right documentation – for whatever reason – from getting work, renting a home or accessing the kinds of services we all need to live. As the report shows, this is leading to poverty, homelessness and avoidable suffering. We believe it is inhumane to use destitution, or the threat of destitution, as a policy tool to encourage people to leave the country.

We are also concerned by the mounting evidence that hostile environment measures are causing racist discrimination. People who do not look or sound ‘British’ are now facing increased difficulty in finding homes and employment, because landlords and employers are being asked to play the role of border guards.

This is not about who we do or do not allow into the UK, but about how we relate to one another inside our borders. Due process, justice and the proper implementation of immigration policies should not require us to live in suspicion of our neighbours.

As Christians we assert the importance of offering welcome to the stranger and caring for the vulnerable, whoever they are. Many of our churches support those who have suffered hardship because of the hostile environment. Our churches include some of the very people who are at risk of destitution and discrimination. We hear many stories of how the system has failed people and the harmful human impact of these policies.

We believe that the hostile environment should be brought to an end, not simply given a new name. As a first step towards that, we are calling for a full and independent review of immigration policy and practice to examine the damaging effect that the policies of the hostile environment are having on the whole of society.

The revelations earlier this year about the appalling treatment of some members of the Windrush Generation have thrown the spotlight on the failings of the hostile environment. They also offer an opportunity for a fresh start. We urge you to seize this opportunity and to adopt an approach to immigration that treats every individual, whatever their status, with humanity, dignity, respect and fairness.

Yours sincerely

Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon and Chair, Churches Refugee Network

Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Loughborough

Rt Revd Richard Jackson, Bishop of Lewes

Revd Michaela Youngson, President of the Methodist Conference

Mr Bala Gnanapragasam, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference

Revd Richard Frazer, convenor of the Church and Society Committee of the Church of Scotland

Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church

Mr Derek Estill, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church

Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain

Most Revd Mark J Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain

Rt Revd John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley, Roman Catholic Church in Scotland

Mr John P Cross, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland

Rev Alan Donaldson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland

Revd Judith Morris, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Wales

Revd Dr Geraint Tudur, General Secretary, Union of Welsh Independents

Christine Elliott, Director of International Programmes, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

Kathy Mohan, CEO, Housing Justice

Revd Fleur Houston, Churches Refugee Network

Mrs Joan Cook, President of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches and President of the Scottish Unitarian Association


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