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1 March 2019

The High Court has proved problems with the hostile environment policy extend far beyond border checks

The policy not only provides a cover, but actively compels civil society to engage in discrimination. 

By Stephen Bush

It’s official: the government’s hostile environment policy not only encourages, but actively compels, private landlords to discriminate on racial and ethnic grounds.

That’s the verdict of the High Court, which has concluded that the Right to Rent – which mandates landlords to check the immigration status of their would-be tenants – not only provides a figleaf for landlords who wish to discriminate but actively forces them to do so in order to avoid falling foul of the scheme.  It comes following a case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants with the support of the Residential Landlords Association and a network of human rights organisations.

You can read the full judgment from Martin Spencer here, but the crucial passage is as follows:

“It is my view that the scheme introduced by the government does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate, but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not.”

It underlines that the problems of the hostile environment are not limited to the seachange in expectations for longterm residents, which leads to events like the Windrush scandal.

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The policy has also co-opted a large swathe of civil society into the border force regardless of their inclincation or ability. It is not merely a matter of whether the Home Office has targets for what it does at the border or not – the hostile environment policy, by its very existence, has implications that extend well beyond border checks.

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