25 May 2022: The Guardian: Home Office staff worry they may be asked to act illegally in ‘culture of fear’.
After 10 years of hostile environment, critics say immigration crackdown has had devastating human cost
Frontline Home Office staff have warned of a “culture of fear” where they are being put into dangerous situations, and may be asked to act illegally, on the 10th anniversary of the launch of the hostile environment.
On 25 May 2012 Theresa May, the then home secretary, gave an interview to the Telegraph in which she said: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.”
The phrase became shorthand for a series of strict policies aimed at cracking down on people who had overstayed, making it harder for them to work in the UK illegally and access housing and bank accounts.
A decade on and the hostile environment has evolved hugely but politicians and others from across the political spectrum question whether it has achieved its stated objectives. Critics point to its devastating human cost.
When May launched her policy, dissent from her own staff was rare. It has since become increasingly common and the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents many Home Office staff, is among the organisations launching two legal challenges against flagship Home Office policies: pushbacks of small boats used by asylum seekers in the Channel and offshoring some of these asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Mark Serwotka, the PCS general secretary, said: “It appears this government has learned nothing from the Windrush scandal, among others. PCS is not prepared to countenance our members being put in potentially dangerous and traumatic situations, where they may be asked to act illegally and be liable to prosecution.”