Immigration Bill will increase homelessness, warns Scottish Government

Alex Neil
Alex Neil

Social justice secretary Alex Neil has condemned the UK government’s Immigration Bill which he said will increase levels of homelessness and discriminate against migrants rather than reduce immigration.

Following its introduction to Parliament yesterday, the cabinet secretary outlined significant concerns around the bill and criticised the UK government for rushing through legislation which impacts on devolved areas like housing and justice.

The bill aims to introduce measures which would require private landlords to evict tenants who do not have legal status in the UK. These, combined with the roll out of the “Right to Rent” provisions in the 2014 Immigration Act could lead to landlords discriminating against prospective tenants who do not hold a British passport, Mr Neil warned.

Having been piloted in the West Midlands, the plans drew serious concerns from landlords who questioned why the policy was being rolled out before an assessment into the impact of the pilot took place.

Meanwhile a report published by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, found that landlords in the West Midlands were refusing lawful tenants as they were becoming increasingly cautious about renting property out to any tenant with identity documents which are not familiar.

The Scottish Government is concerned the measures could marginalise vulnerable migrants and prevent them from getting in touch with the Home Office and other authorities for fear of eviction.

There is also a proposal to cut financial support for refused asylum seekers across the UK which Scottish Ministers say could lead to more people becoming destitute.

Mr Neil said: “The UK government’s heavy-handed one-size-fits-all approach to immigration only fuels the misconceptions around migrants.

“I am disappointed to see the inhumane measures set out in the Immigration Bill and I am deeply concerned if approved, that they will encourage people to discriminate against this vulnerable group.

“These harsh restrictions around rent and evictions would make it even tougher for migrants to access housing. Where they have accommodation they may be too frightened to keep in contact with the Home Office and authorities if they believe there is a threat of eviction. If migrants also believe they could be forced into homelessness, it leaves them at risk of being exploited by rogue landlords.

“The UK government’s approach, coinciding with its delayed response to the worst humanitarian crisis facing Europe since the Second World War, shows an unbelievable lack of compassion and understanding of people’s basic rights.

“We will do all we can to stand against the proposals in the bill which will leave people at risk of homelessness or destitution. We are committed to creating a fairer Scotland, where we provide protection, safety and security to those who need it most.”

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