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International Migrants’ Rights in the UK from the 1998 Human Rights Act to the Big Society Concept

Les droits fondamentaux des migrants au Royaume-Uni depuis le vote du Human Rights Act (1998) jusqu’au concept actuel de la « Big Society »
Catherine Puzzo

Résumés

Au Royaume-Uni, depuis le milieu des années 1990, les mesures politiques et la législation mise en place par les gouvernements successifs ont maintenu les réfugiés et les demandeurs d’asile dans une situation de précarité sociale, économique et juridique. Chaque catégorie de migrants s’est vue accorder des droits différents selon son statut. Les politiques adoptées ont ainsi aggravé l’exclusion sociale et renforcé la marginalisation économique de ces migrants. Cela est d’autant plus surprenant que les gouvernements travaillistes, ainsi que la coalition actuellement au pouvoir, ont fait de l’intégration de leurs populations étrangères une mesure phare de leur politique migratoire. L’accent a été mis sur l’importance de la cohésion sociale permettant une meilleure intégration de ces populations, mais, en parallèle, des atteintes répétées à certains droits fondamentaux ont été constatées. Cet article tentera de dresser un bilan de l’évolution des mesures en matière d’immigration et de droit d’asile au regard des libertés fondamentales. Il s’agira de démonter l’apparent paradoxe de ces politiques, politiques oscillant entre attachement historique aux valeurs de liberté et respect affirmé des droits de l’homme, et préoccupation constante de maîtriser les flux migratoires, de repousser des migrants dits “indésirables” tout en faisant primer la sécurité de l’État.

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Entrées d’index

Index by keywords :

immigration, migrants, asylum, law, United Kingdom

Index géographique :

United Kingdom, Royaume-Uni
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Texte intégral

  • 1 In some cases a person who does not qualify for recognition as a refugee may be given permiss (...)
  • 2 Biometric identity cards were introduced in March 2006 (Identity Cards Act 2006). The text wa (...)

1Since the mid-1990s the policies and the legal and regulatory instruments for refugees and asylum seekers have maintained particular groups of migrants in a state of limbo with fewer rights than the rest of the British population. Successive governmental policies have attached rights to the legal status of asylum seekers, failed refugees and those granted humanitarian leave or discretionary leave to remain1, but have defined them narrowly and have imposed restrictions related to residence status, family reunion, work permits and entitlement to housing and welfare benefits. It is frequently argued that the enforcement of these restrictive policies has caused widespread social exclusion and destitution amongst these migrants. This is all the more paradoxical since the Labour and the current coalition administrations have made integration of their foreign population a key dimension of their migration agenda. In 2005 the Home Office published its White Paper “Integration matters: a national strategy for refugee integration” (2005) which sought to identify key challenges for migrant integration (refugees in particular) and offered a comprehensive action plan in areas such as housing, employment, education and community relations. Particular emphasis has been placed on social cohesion through the binding role of social networks (notably with Refugee Community Organisations), the allocation of specific local resources (role of local housing providers and community development workers for example) to pursue a strategy for the successful integration of migrants and their descendants. Equally, there has been an underlying contradiction between the frequent assertion that Britain is a safe haven for those persecuted, proud of its long tradition of civil liberties, and the growing use of detention of migrants, of biometric identity cards for foreign nationals2, or of repeated infringements of migrants’ basic human rights by Home Office private contractors in charge of detaining and deporting them, as will be detailed below.

2This paper intends to review the path successive governments, including the current one, have taken to uphold human rights commitments to its foreign population notably with the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights while, on the other hand, pursuing increasingly restrictive policies which have undermined migrants’ chances of integrating successfully. The temporary five-year leave to remain for refugees, the lengthy and difficult path to British citizenship or the very severe asylum system to process applications are some of the various exclusionary policies that originated in the Labour period and have been further developed by the coalition government. Also, in the current context of acute economic crisis and consequent severe cuts, it seems relevant to investigate how the austerity programmes implemented by the coalition government have constituted a real challenge for interest groups responsible for supporting immigrants’ rights in the UK.

The Commitment to Defend Civil Liberties : Supporting the Rights of Migrants ?

The New Labour years : a mixed record

3When Tony Blair’s first government took office in May 1997, it was generally believed that, after 18 years of Conservative immigration and asylum policies, a more humane and compassionate approach would be adopted. With its slogan “Fairer, Faster and Firmer” (1997 Labour Manifesto Because Britain Deserves Better)3 New Labour promised that its immigration and asylum policies would be more respectful of human rights, that Britain would continue to be a safe haven for the persecuted and that the whole system for dealing with asylum applications would become more efficient and more rapid, although human rights commitments would have to be reconciled with people’s concern about immigration control. In a wider perspective the immigration and asylum proposals were part of New Labour’s agenda to modernise Britain, celebrating multicultural diversity and promoting equality and cultural mix4. Over the 13 years they were in office several significant pieces of legislation were introduced to manage cultural diversity, ease race relations, promote human rights and defend civil liberties. But that decade was also marked by a tough framework to combat irregular migration, the progressive withdrawal of welfare rights from asylum seekers and the consequent denial of fundamental rights to specific categories of non-nationals.

  • 5 “Citizens should have statutory rights to enforce their human rights in the UK courts. We (...)

4The passing of the Human Rights Act 1998 which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was consistent with New Labour’s electoral pledge “to bring rights home”5. Although Britain had been the first European country to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights (1951), it was not until 1966 that the British government of the day accepted the right of individuals to petition the European Court. From that date whenever a British litigant felt that his/her rights had been infringed, he/she could take his/her case to the European Court in Strasbourg because he/she could not obtain any redress in a British court. This procedure was time-consuming and quite expensive. Somehow it was illogical that since the 1950s Britain had recognised to be bound by certain rights but that, on the other hand, these rights could not be secured in any British court. The Human Rights Act 1998 attempted to resolve this contradiction and made these rights enforceable in the British courts. Although the Act did not create any new rights, it has made equality a fundamental tenet of general policymaking since then. In this respect Labour politicians were particularly keen to emphasise the moral dimension that underpinned the governmental strategy on immigration and asylum matters : harsher controls and more restrictions but, within a system designed to protect immigrants and genuine refugees, a system that would respect fundamental civil liberties and would safeguard human rights :

  • 6 David Blunkett, foreword to the White Paper “Secure Borders, Safe Haven,” February 2002, (...)
  • 7 Tony Blair, foreword to the White Paper “Controlling our Borders, Making Migration Work f (...)

We have fundamental moral obligations which we will always honour. We must uphold basic human rights, tackling the racism and prejudice which people still face too often6.
I believe the people of this country understand all this. It is in their nature to be moderate and tolerant. They have, over many decades, welcomed those who desperately need a safe haven. This generosity and tolerance helps explain why race relations here have, in general, been a quiet success story. And many of us, of course, are first or second-generation immigrants ourselves.7

  • 8 There are different types of remedies available when a complaint is upheld: (i) An order (...)
  • 9 See the reports of the Home Affairs Select Committee : House of Commons, Home A (...)
  • 10 Memorandum of the Runnymede Trust to the Home Affairs Select Committee, 2009.

5Correlated to these issues was the crucial state of race relations at the end of the 1990s. The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 signalled a clear intention to combat institutional racism to deal with public authority functions not covered by the previous Race Relations Act 19768. The text (i) outlaws race discrimination, whether direct, indirect and victimization; (ii) defines “public authority” widely for the purpose of outlawing race discrimination, so that it includes public functions carried out by private sector organisations and has only limited exemptions ; and (iii) places a general duty on specified public authorities to promote race equality. However and quite significantly, immigration and asylum are part of the list of exemptions from the Act, which is of consequence, since the staff of the UK Border Agency, as well as the numerous staff working for the Home Office’s subcontractors, are not bound to promote race equality or to act fairly in a non-discriminatory manner. On several occasions immigration officers, security guards, case workers have been accused of practising ethnic or racial profiling (i.e. at ports of entry, migrants have been discriminated against according to their nationality or ethnic group) or of verbal abuse and strongly racially connoted language9. The Runnymede Trust has argued that such discriminatory practice has gone uncontrolled since the termination of the role of the Independent Race Monitor, further reinforcing the lack of accountability of the UK Border Agency and its public service providers10.

  • 11 Riots in Oldham, Bradford and Birmingham in which Pakistanis and Bangladeshis confronted (...)
  • 12 White Paper, 2002, op. cit., chapter 2, 35.
  • 13 Citizenship ceremonies were announced in the 2002 Home Office White Paper. David Blunkett (...)

6In the aftermath of the 2001 summer disturbances11, a new framework to address race relations in the UK emerged : the “community cohesion” agenda aimed to shape a new vision, a sense of belonging to the UK and to manage diversity at the same time. The Home Office White Paper “Safe Haven, Secure Borders” (2002) proposed an inclusive version of the concepts of nationality and citizenship, paying particular attention to the rights and duties attached to them12. This shift away from the initial, enthusiastic celebration of multicultural diversity went along with harsher tones in the public debate on immigration and asylum. The new agenda delegated to local authorities the responsibility of preparing “local community cohesion plans” consisting in promoting equality and good race relations. It also forecast the introduction of citizenship ceremonies in 200413. Explicit policy rhetoric insisted that social cohesion, community cohesion and harmony were highly dependent upon a strict control of migration of certain groups into Britain. In this context, asylum seekers and recent migrant communities were at best forgotten by the community cohesion agenda, at worst blamed for not integrating successfully while the obstacles on the path to British citizenship multiplied.

  • 14 Lydia Morris, “Citizenship and Human Rights: Ideals and Actualities,” The British Journal (...)

7As Lydia Morris points out, “rights are rarely simply one-sided and whenever there is the granting of a right there is usually an opportunity for surveillance or control.”14 So parallel to the “inclusion agenda” an “exclusion agenda” developed, which saw the reinforcement of border controls and of internal controls which criminalised and stigmatised mainly asylum seekers soon dubbed “bogus refugees”. The New Labour administrations had recourse to legislation no fewer than six times (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009) to regulate migratory flows and adjust the arrival of asylum seekers whose number reached a peak during Tony Blair’s second term (26,205 applications in 1990, more than 80,000 applications in 2002). Central to the new system were the introduction of the fast-track procedure to deal swiftly with asylum applications and the detention of migrants while their case was being examined. And long before the current economic crisis and ensuing public deficit, New Labour administrations were already particularly concerned with the reduction of public spending on welfare for migrants and refugees. The progressive withdrawal of welfare rights from asylum seekers was claimed to be the key to limit “abuse” from a population thought to be attracted to the country by the availability of benefits (see infra). By 2010 the three major parties agreed on the necessity to reform the immigration system to protect public services and restore social cohesion.

The current coalition : contrasted ambitions and ambiguous positions

  • 15 Among the most intrusive measures are iris-scans at airports (IRIS: Iris Recogn (...)
  • 16 David Erdos, “Smoke but no Fire ? The Politics of a ‘British’ Bill of Rights,” The Politi (...)

8The current coalition partners have long had contrasted views on human rights, immigration and asylum. Both parties have not engaged with the same fervour on the necessary protection of individual liberty against intrusive measures of the State, nor have they undertaken with the same passion to restore the protection of civil liberties, which, in the aftermath of September 11th and the 2005 London Bombings, have been curtailed by way of an expanding range of surveillance processes on British citizens and foreigners alike15. The Liberal Democrats’ commitment to promote and defend civil liberties was developed in their 2010 manifesto where they pledged to protect the Human Rights Act 1998 and to end the detention of migrant children for immigration purposes. As for the Conservatives, they strongly rejected some of the key measures passed under the Labour administrations such as the national identity card and the DNA database, accusing a number of their predecessors’ actions of “illegitimately undermining traditional freedoms”16.

  • 17 Already in 2007 during the annual Conservative Conference David Cameron had promised (...)
  • 18 For example, changes to counter-terrorism powers with a reduction to 14 days of (...)
  • 19 See “Clegg’s Freedom Bill is no Magna Carta,” The Guardian, February 14, 2011.

9So the coalition collectively presented itself as tough on control but human rights friendly in spirit. While the LibDems claimed that they brought moral authority to the coalition, the Conservatives insisted that the national interest was best served by drastic measures targeting specific categories of migrants who clearly were unwelcome: students and “bogus” asylum seekers mainly. Policy rhetoric and policy proposals have been underpinned by moral considerations as to who does or does not deserve to come to the UK. The Conservatives insisted on the need to create a new reference text defining British core values that would strike the right balance between individuals’ rights and the interests of the law-abiding majority17. The HRA 1998 was not replaced but in May 2012 the Protection of Freedoms Act received Royal Assent after many controversial debates. The new text, which contains several major modifications to earlier Labour legislation18, seeks to bring to an end “unwarranted state intrusion into private lives” but some experts reckon it does not offer a real coherent vision for fundamental rights.19

  • 20 The libertarian or classical liberal perspective is that individual well-being, prosperit (...)

10Quite unsurprisingly the series of reforms on immigration and asylum reflect this ambivalent commitment. They oscillate between the government’s libertarian approach20 to protect freedoms and the need to reassert the role of the state to control migratory flows and foreign populations. Most notably, some of the reforms already adopted by the government have breached article 8 (right to private and family life) as well as article 14 (discrimination on ground of sex, race, colour) of the ECHR. In July 2012, the government published its new immigration rules on family reunion which directly affect the interpretation of article 8 of the ECHR. When she presented her motion to Parliament, Home Secretary Theresa May declared that :

  • 21 House of Commons, Hansard, col. 49-50, July 11, 2012.

Article 8 is clearly a qualified right [a right that can be derogated from], but Parliament has never set out how it should be qualified in practice. So for too long the courts have been left to decide cases under article 8 without the view of Parliament and to develop public policy through case law. It is time to fill the vacuum. I will shortly ask the House to approve a motion recognising the qualified nature of article 8 and agreeing that the new immigration rules should form the basis of whether someone can come to or stay in this country on the basis of family life. For the first time, the courts will have a clear framework within which to operate, and one that is on the side of the public, not foreign criminals.21

11The new text means that family members failing to satisfy the requirements imposed by the new rules will not be able to make their claim on the basis of the application of article 8. Their rights to private and family life will not be considered as a valid claim to be able to enter the UK and remain in the country. Also, the text seeks to restore Parliamentary sovereignty by strictly limiting the power judges have to interpret article 8 when applicants claim it has been infringed by immigration authorities.

  • 22 Consultation paper on the limits on non-EU economic migration launched on the 28th June 2 (...)
  • 23 See in particular publications produced by the Institute for Race Relations, the Joint Co (...)

12This reform has to be considered in the light of the first modifications that were introduced in June 2010. A month after taking office, the Home Secretary announced that spouses and partners of British citizens from overseas would have to take an English language test before joining their partners in the UK. The measure primarily targeted sham marriages and the Home Office estimated that it would reduce applications by 10 %. At the same time Theresa May claimed that the government’s intention was to “promote integration”22. Associations supporting migrants have denounced the harshness of this constraint, stressing that it is very likely that the new requirement will lead to the separation of genuine families (an argument given by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants). The new requirement has also been extended to family members of former refugees who have become naturalised British citizens. Experts have raised the case of spouses failing the test and not being able to join their partners in the UK, while it could be highly dangerous, or even impossible for the new British citizen to return to his/her country of origin if he/she wants to reunite with his/her family. Field associations have criticised the new system and have argued that the language test is likely to contravene articles 8 and 14 of the ECHR23. The probable consequences of the test are several : (i) prolonged and indefinite separation of partners and spouses in cases where they do not have the linguistic skills to satisfy the requirements, (ii) global disparities mean that opportunities to acquire even basic English language skills are not the same worldwide : in conflict zones or rural areas testing at the A1 level is not always available, (iii) women may be more disadvantaged because in their countries of origin they may have very few opportunities to learn English (societal hostility to women’s education).

  • 24 Nick Clegg, The Guardian, December 16, 2010.

13It must be noted that the Liberal Democrats have nonetheless managed to impose one of Nick Clegg’s electoral promises, the end of detention for migrant children. In December 2010 the government formally announced that no children would be incarcerated for immigration purposes and the closure of the family wing at Yarl’s Wood was proclaimed, by Nick Clegg, as “an enormous culture shift within the immigration system”24. Although children have not been detained as extensively as during the Labour years, the new system has not ended the practice of keeping in specific separate accommodation families with children before they are sent back to their home country.

14When Labour took office, back in 1997, they claimed that their policies were guided by a new concept, that of fairness, which would mean fair and ethical measures for a modernised Britain. Similarly thirteen years later, the coalition government has maintained that its policies are underpinned by the concept of fairness (in particular in relation to their package of spending cuts) to promote civic renewal and mend “broken Britain”. But the concept is vague and has not been a narrowly defined political principle guiding governments. So far, fairness seems to have been more a rhetorical gimmick than a sound, coherent concept set of measures to reduce widening inequalities in Britain.

Constraints over Policy Decisions and Lawmaking : Changing Characteristics of the Receiving Contexts

New Labour : the “best of both worlds”

  • 25 Mathias Czaika & Hein De Haas, “The Effectiveness of Immigration Policies. A Conceptual R (...)
  • 26 Identity Cards Act 2006, Explanatory Notes, 3-4.
  • 27 Biographical records include the date and place of birth, nationality, gender, immigratio (...)

15The analysis of any policy has to take into account the contexts within which they are elaborated: both the stated and hidden objectives, the different interests at stake and the effective role of stakeholders. Czaika and De Haas in their study on the effectiveness of migration policies demonstrate that “the de facto migration policy is typically a compromise between multiple, potentially competing interests.”25 In other words immigration and refugee policies have often been devised in such a way as to serve diverging interests and multiple objectives. This in turn has had an impact upon the outcomes of these policies. From 2001 New Labour administrations were particularly concerned with a security agenda that led to an intensification of security measures and heightened suspicion towards foreigners in general and asylum seekers in particular. In 2006 the replacement of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) was followed by the reinforcement of border controls and the launch of biometric visas; it gave immigration officers greater police powers requiring foreign nationals to have a biometric immigration document (UK Borders Act 2007). In addition to electronic monitoring of some categories of migrants, the creation of identity cards and of a national identity register contributed to the profiling and screening of foreign citizens. The Identity Cards Act (2006) established a National Identity Register which was deemed “necessary in the public interest for the purposes of national security, prevention and detection of crime, enforcement of immigration controls, and enforcement of prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment.”26 Unlike most European systems of identity cards the National Identity Register targeted principally foreigners and allowed for the registration of the identity and details of failed asylum seekers. The biometric and biographical data held by the immigration services could be transferred to the national identity register and could be used to check a new application to enter the UK under another identity.27

16The intensity of surveillance of migrants by way of forced dispersal, electronic tagging, but also iris scanners at airports, CCTV cameras on downtown streets was born out of the consequences of September 11th but was also revealing in other ways. The enhanced level of controls testified to an unprecedented degree of prejudice and bias against migrants, combined with a distorted perception of the reality of migration. This is an example of competing interests at stake: the government’s chief concern for security and the public’s anxiety over perceived uncontrolled immigration combined with a purely utilitarian view of migration :

  • 28 Charles Clarke, Home Secretary, foreword to the White Paper “Controlling our Borders : Ma (...)

We will continue to root out abuse of the system by rigorously implementing the measures we have taken to ensure that we distinguish between genuine refugees and those who are looking to come here to work or claim benefits and by further strengthening our borders and removing those whose claims fail […] We will continue to allow a small proportion of those who come here to settle permanently where there is a clear economic benefit.28

  • 29 Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Bulletin Spring 2001, 2.
  • 30 Andrew Geddes, “Getting the Best of both Worlds. Britain, the EU and Migration Policy,” I (...)
  • 31 Examples of opting in :

17The Labour governments also sought further cooperation amongst EU countries to extend the “invincible wall of fortress Britain”29. Whereas in the post-war period and up to the end of the 1990s, primary and secondary rules to control entry by citizens or nationals of another State were nearly exclusively framed by officials in the Home Office, under New Labour, consequent to Britain’s deeper integration at the European Union level, the UK regulations incorporated European policy sources. The transnational dimension of the issues of immigration and asylum entailed the coexistence of several levels in the determination of domestic policies showing the UK’s interdependency with other European States. Such interdependency was not, however, exempt from contradictions30. On the one hand the Blair administrations opted into EU regulations and directives on asylum, regular migration, border control and visas. For example, Britain engaged in European programmes that reinforce the cooperation on border controls, the return of failed refugees to source countries and the combat against human trafficking31. On the other hand British authorities continued to claim British sovereignty over the country’s borders and opted out of the directives that reinforce family rights and the Return Directive (2008) that seeks to standardise the procedures regulating the expulsion of illegal migrants and sets the maximum period of custody (18 months) for deportees due to be removed. In June 2007 during a European Council Tony Blair declared that, for Britain, “red lines” existed which would ensure that “there would not be a transfer of power away from the UK on issues of fundamental importance to our sovereignty”: namely police, judicial processes and national security.

18Thus, the UK, like other European States faced with an ever-increasing flow of immigrants, decided to endorse some of the common standards on border controls but opted out of some directives which would have granted further rights to migrants. Andrew Geddes quite rightly underlines that opting out gave British governments the ability to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to engage or not. Quite significantly the possibility of opting out of certain directives signalled Britain’s unwillingness to further commit itself to the upholding of basic civil liberties. As Andrew Geddes argues, borrowing from Tony Blair’s words, the British governments tried to get the best of both worlds :

There is no question of Britain giving up our veto on our border controls. In the Treaty of Amsterdam seven years ago we secured the absolute right to opt in to any of the asylum and immigration provisions that we wanted to in Europe. Unless we opt in, we are not affected by it. And what this actually gives us is the best of both worlds.32

  • 33 The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (2002) allowed highly skilled people to enter the UK (...)

19During these years and in parallel with the security agenda, the Labour administrations pursued a very liberal migration policy in line with the country’s economic needs and business lobbies’ interests. A decade of economic boom benefited specific sectors of the economy highly dependent upon a foreign workforce. Agriculture, hotels and catering, the food industry and the service sector in general enjoyed spectacular growth thanks to newcomers. Economic migrants were thought to be essential to ensure the lasting growth of the UK’s economy33. It was not difficult for the governments of the day to make a positive case for the benefits of economic migration. Hence, for example the decision to allow nationals of new EU member States in Eastern Europe to work in the UK. Soon a consensus over the contributions of newcomers to national and regional prosperity, and over the greater cultural benefits brought by migrants, dominated the political elite. But during the 2010 electoral campaign, in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, other considerations prevailed, such as the urgent need to redress the public deficit and to drastically cut public expenditure. This led the main parties to reconsider the need for a foreign workforce at a time of growing unemployment and to question the availability of public funds to support refugees.

The “Big Society” and the current economic crisis

20Compared to the boom years of the second Blair term, the current lasting recession has radically modified the receiving context for migrant populations and consequently the political agenda. Most political strategies of the coalition in office have been affected by the decision to cut public spending to pay off the deficit. All ministries, the Home Office included, have been concerned by the government’s spending review announced in June 2010. The economic crisis has thus further enhanced scepticism about the legitimacy of many migrants today. Whereas it had seemed logical for the Labour administrations to boast the positive contribution of the foreign workforce, the coalition has found easy arguments to legitimise the introduction of an annual cap on foreign labour and the reduction in the number of student visas to fight a category of migrants thought to abuse the system.

  • 34 Rebecca Tunstall et al., Building the Big Society, London School of Economics, Centre for (...)
  • 35 See the website of the National Council for Voluntary Organisation: <http://www (...)
  • 36 Home Office, Integration Matters : A National Strategy for Refugee Integration, (...)

21The “Big Society”, a concept which is “supposed to help create stronger communities that can do more to help themselves without first running to the state for help,”34 has been correlated to the vast programme of austerity and budget cuts. It is therefore questionable to what extent the programme of self-help35 and community control can be applied to the fields of migration and asylum. How can the Big Society vision be reconciled with the cuts in public funding affecting large community organisations and grassroots ones ? Two of the largest refugee organisations in the UK, the Refugee Council and Refugee Action, which launched a project called “Basis” to help Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs) to manage, develop and sustain their work, have already pointed out the inconsistencies in the Big Society programme when it comes to dealing with the most marginalised population. RCOs are run by and for refugees to provide advice, develop services to support migrants (legal advice, interpreting, work, housing, financial help…). The Home Office has acknowledged the role of these organisations which “act as bridges to mainstream services and other local groups.”36 However, in a memorandum presented to the Public Administration Select Committee of the House of Commons, the Refugee Council and Refugee Action have challenged the coalition government on its localism agenda. The two charities stress that the needs of refugees and asylum seekers are greatly at risk of being squeezed out because of the poor representation of these groups in local decision-making. Also the drastic reductions in public funding will further weaken some of these associations forcing them to concentrate on mainstream services and to rely even more widely on volunteers.

  • 37 Kathy Evans, “‘Big Society’ in the UK : A Policy Review,” Children & Society, v (...)
  • 38 Don Flynn, “Supporting the Rights of Migrants in the Regions : Meeting the Challenge of (...)

22As Kathy Evans points out, the government has been keen to explain that Britain needs to create a transition “from Big government to Big Society” – taking power, responsibility and decision making from the state and giving it to individuals, neighbourhoods, or “the lowest possible tier of government”37. She argues that the concept suffers from three flaws : (i) contracting out public services to private providers does not preclude the State’s responsibility and accountability, (ii) Big Society plans in an already divided, unequal society risk increasing socio-economic divisions because of the inability of specific categories to participate in volunteer action, (iii) unpaid volunteer time requires management, coordination, training and support of volunteers’ work. Evans developed her arguments in relation to the position of children in society, but some of her points can be applied to another vulnerable category of the population : migrants. So far, there have been very few studies on the implications of the Big Society concept for non-nationals38.

  • 39 The UK Border Agency which was responsible for immigration and asylum operations was spli (...)
  • 40 The lack of respect of fundamental human rights in these centres has been reported for qu (...)

23First, the significant role of subcontractors in this field is to be mentioned and it is likely that austerity will result in further government outsourcing. Already the government announced that due to budget cuts (between 25 to 40 %) the UKBA was contemplating cutting 7,000 jobs over the next four years, some of them, for example, to be replaced by lower-paid private security staff39. For decades now, the Home Office and its immigration agencies have been subcontracting part of their tasks to private firms: governmental back-office administration (IT, HR, finance, accounting...), management of detention centres, escort services to deport foreign prisoners and failed asylum seekers, security services (Calais), medical and social care... The ability of the Home Office to effectively manage external suppliers has been questioned on many occasions: reports produced by Her Majesty‘s Inspectorate of Prisons, the IMBs (Immigration Monitoring Boards) and numerous associations have repeatedly called the government’s attention to the infringements of fundamental civil liberties in the daily operations to control migrants. It has often been argued that civil servants lack the ability to deliver on business requirements because of inadequate or insufficient technological knowledge. The case of the management of detention centres illustrates problems of coordination between Home Office services and those of the private companies.40

  • 41 Although volunteering can be useful for asylum seekers to improve their English and gain (...)

24Second, the ways in which migrants have been able to engage with the society where they are settling vary greatly according to their socio-legal status. Quite clearly, asylum seekers and migrants in an irregular position are those who are the least equipped to participate in volunteering41. The most marginalised members of society have needs that have to be met first before they may be able to contribute.

  • 42 The Guardian, July, 11, 2011.
  • 43 Previously solicitors used to receive legal aid for asylum cases based on the number of h (...)
  • 44 House of Commons, Justice Committee, Government’s proposed reform of legal aid, third rep (...)

25Third and most importantly, the drastic reduction of public money has had catastrophic consequences for the voluntary sector. Refugee and Community Organisations rely heavily on volunteers and scarce public money. The case of law centres which provide advice and representation to foreign nationals is a good example of the damage entailed by the governmental agenda on spending cuts. Some of these cuts date back to Gordon Brown’s government. In 2010, one of these RCOs, Refugee Migrant Justice, had to close following the budgetary cuts decided by the last New Labour government and it left an estimated 10,000 asylum cases in limbo. A year after the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS), the largest provider of publicly funded legal representation, was placed in administration. An unnamed senior IAS official estimated at the time that about 8,000 asylum cases were left unresolved because of a lack of caseworkers42. Additionally legal aid (introduced in the UK in 1949) is to be curtailed through a reduction in the scope of legal aid funding : £315m off the current budget by 2015. In the field of immigration, appeals will not be funded any more except for cases where migrants challenge their detention43. It is already clear that the latest policy developments have created a distinction between “worthy” asylum seekers who will get legal aid for their representation costs and “unworthy” economic migrants. However the boundaries between the different categories of migrants are often blurred and it is likely that because of the costs many immigrants will represent themselves, their rights will not be secured and it will take longer to hear cases, ultimately leading to increasing costs. The 2011 House of Commons Justice Committee’s report on the government’s proposals highlighted that the measures will affect the weakest in society: women, the sick, the disabled, ethnic minorities...44 Such a reform is inconsistent with the government’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable in society.

Socio-legal Status of Migrants: Denial of Rights

  • 45 Lydia Morris, op. cit., XX. Sylvie Da Lomba, “Legal Status and Refugee Integration : A UK (...)

26The high rate of law-making over the last two decades and the muddled state of policy instruments on migration and asylum have resulted in a “system of legal (immigration) statuses with different rights and restrictions attached”45. It could be argued that the system has a hierarchical structure whereby migrants have differential rights according to their legal regime. The legal status determines the extent of their welfare rights (housing, health care and benefits) and the restrictions attached to the right to work.

27At the top of the hierarchical system, those with refugee status do enjoy the same welfare rights as ordinary UK citizens and are allowed to work. However, whereas up to the mid-2000s refugees’ status was permanent, since the 2006 Asylum and Nationality Act, they have been granted a five-year temporary refugee status, to be reviewed according to the situation of their country of origin. Similarly but for a shorter period of time migrants granted humanitarian protection, that is those who fail to meet the requirements of the Refugee Convention definition but nonetheless cannot be deported, may remain in the UK for three years and do enjoy the same rights as refugees. These temporary immigration statuses mean that migrants belonging to either category find themselves in a particularly precarious position. Although the government acknowledges that returning them to their country would be dangerous or that it is simply impossible because of the lack of cooperation from the sending country, the governmental decision to end any permanent status testified to the widespread wariness about asylum seekers, thought to be bogus refugees. Migration law has thus seriously hampered prolonged and stable integration because of the limited temporal dimension of their legal status.

  • 46 “We will allow people who have been in Britain without the correct papers for 10 ye (...)
  • 47 “Nick Clegg abandons illegal immigrant amnesty proposal,” BBC News, March, 22, 2013

28At the bottom end can be found those in the worst situation: failed asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. They do not have any right to remain in the UK and are required to leave the accommodation provided under the NASS (National Asylum Support Service) within 28 days of notification. They are not entitled to welfare benefits and can only be granted (very limited) support in exceptional circumstances. In practice failed asylum seekers are forbidden to work but often cannot be removed immediately for a variety of reasons: lack of official documents, no safe route to deport them, lack of cooperation from the authorities of the country of origin. In these cases the only support available is “the regular subsistence payments” allocated by the NASS, which constitute much less than income support granted to British nationals. But these benefits are not available for all the asylum seekers who have already reached the end of the asylum process, unless they have children. Under very specific circumstances they may be entitled to access to hard case support. Although they are expected to leave the country voluntarily, it seems that many will simply disappear, leaving their accommodation but remaining in the UK. In 2008 it was estimated that between 155,000 and 283,000 failed asylum seekers were still living on the UK territory and that many had recourse to illegal work to maintain themselves. Nick Clegg would have liked to grant a general amnesty to all these irregulars but his proposal was rejected by his Conservative partner when they elaborated their joint governmental programme in June 201046. However in March 2013, a few days before UKIP Spring Conference, the Prime Minister and his deputy delivered speeches in which their views on this specific issue coincided to a greater extent than during the 2010 campaign. N. Clegg admitted that an amnesty might backlash and above all “was seen by many as a reward for breaking the law.”47

29In between these three categories, refugees, those granted humanitarian protection and failed refugees, can be found thousands of migrants of uncertain but evolving legal status. Migrants claiming asylum at ports of entry immediately upon arrival are not considered in the same way as the so-called “late claimers”, those who seek asylum only once their visitor permit has elapsed. Both groups may have their case fast-tracked because their claims are deemed straightforward but some of them are detained in Immigration Removal Centres (IRC) in the meantime, while others may be released subject to regular reporting to the police. They may be asked to wear an electronic tag to trace their presence at all times. In any case they are forbidden to work, which places them in such a state of deprivation that, as early as 2003, cases were brought to the High Court on the ground that the legislation enacted by the state towards asylum seekers amounted to a breach of article 3 of the ECHR (inhuman and degrading treatment). The High Court ruled that :

  • 48 Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) ex parte Q, EWCA, 2003, quoted by Lydia M (...)

The imposition by the legislature of a regime which prohibits asylum seekers from working and further prohibits the grant to them, when they are destitute, of support amounts to positive action directed against asylum seekers and not to mere inaction.48

  • 49 R (on the application of Refugee Action) v SSHD [2014] EWHC 1033 (Admin). See more (...)
  • 50 Neil Spicer, “Places of Exclusion and Inclusion. Asylum Seekers and Refugee Experiences of (...)
  • 51 Refugees often have unique health needs due to the traumatic reasons they had for leaving t (...)
  • 52 “Refugee dispersal will continue,” BBC News, August, 7, 2001.

30More recently the High Court judges held that the decision not to review the rate of asylum support paid to destitute asylum seekers was unlawful49. So, even if the prohibition from working is still effective, those who are totally destitute are allowed to apply to the NASS for basic housing and social security benefits (amounting to 70 % of regular income support). However eligibility for maintenance support is conditional upon claimants’ acceptance of forced dispersal to a location over which they have no choice. The dispersal scheme created by the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act was aimed at some of the 65,000 asylum seekers who had arrived towards the end of the 1990s. Spreading their settlement across Britain was meant to alleviate pressures on local authorities (mainly in London and the South East) and to ease tense community relations. Most refugees arriving at one of the two major London airports had naturally gone to those areas where members of their communities were already living, but under the 1999 scheme asylum seekers were automatically sent by bus to one of the nine designated cluster areas that were created throughout the UK. The harshness of the scheme has been acknowledged by many commentators and its occasional dramatic consequences have been well documented50. Forced dispersal and isolation had a substantial impact on the rights and welfare of migrants. They impeded access to community, social support as well as legal assistance because most support services (educational, health and legal expertise) are to be found in London and are not always available in other parts of the country51. They also increased social marginalisation and had negative repercussions for race relations. The lack of community support prompted some of these migrants to attempt to go to London, despite the ban. In 2001 the principle of forced dispersal was somewhat softened as the government recognised that local authorities had to take greater account of individuals’ language and needs and that the police might be consulted before sending migrants to areas “not equipped to cope with them”52. Currently, when asylum seekers make a request for free housing they are automatically sent to one of the following regions: North West, Midlands, North East, Wales or Scotland.

  • 53 Ann Singh, “A Cashless Society, the other Side of the Coin,” Institute of Race Relations, (...)
  • 54 See the report of Asylum Support Partnership (ASP), Your Inflexible Friend : The Cost of Li (...)
  • 55 Asylum seekers can get permission to work if they have been waiting for an initial Home Off (...)

31The 1999 Act also set up a scheme providing asylum seekers with a basic weekly allowance in the form of vouchers, which allowed them to shop in specific supermarkets; however, no change was given on these vouchers and it soon appeared that shops were profiting at their expense53. Vouchers were abolished in 2009 but soon replaced in November of the same year by a payment card, the Azure Card to be used by failed asylum seekers who are still unable to return to their country. The card is topped up each week with £35 per person and, like vouchers can only be spent in a limited number of shops. No cash exchange is authorised and only £5 pounds can be transferred over to the next week. Clearly the system has maintained in deprivation migrants living on this type of support54. Such deprivation is even more reinforced with the many restrictions on access to work55.

32Although article 23.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment,” these rights are not guaranteed in the ECHR and or indeed in the 1998 Human Rights Act. In practice governments have, along the years, multiplied the rules and obstacles to prevent asylum seekers from working so that the excuse of seeking asylum may not be used as a possibility to enter the British labour market. This has meant that the State has acknowledged a specific duty to maintain and support those populations forbidden to work, but the strain on the public budget has been, more often than not, used as an excuse to cut payments and reduce support.

Concluding Remarks

  • 56 Satvinder S. Juss, Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship, London : Mansell, 1993 (...)

33Satvinder S. Juss claims that “immigration controls tell us not only about a country’s attitude to those without, but also to those within it.”56 In other words the way a country treats its immigrants is a reflection of its commitment to civil liberties. Immigration and asylum policies are never static and undergo changes according to the political administrations in place, the economic contexts and external constraints such as the international political scene.

34New Labour and the current coalition have often pledged to put human rights concerns at the heart of their immigration and asylum policies. New Labour’s record contradicted the initial expectations and promises with stringent immigration controls, growth of detention centres for asylum seekers, record number of deportation orders to remove immigrants to their home country, scandals over the poor management of the immigration administrative infrastructure and progressive restrictions on access to basic welfare rights. Although it is difficult to appreciate whether the current governmental measures will achieve their stated and intended objectives, it is already clear that cuts in State funding will damage the voluntary sector operating in the field of migration.

  • 57 Claire Worley, “‘It’s not about Race. It’s about the Community’ : New Labour and Co (...)

35As for the social perception of these vulnerable populations, quite unsurprisingly, the rather hostile construction of asylum and immigration in the popular press and the lack of political consistency (a dominant feature of the Labour years) have not ended with the current government57. The Cameron-Clegg government has legitimised its stringent immigration policy in the name of the nation’s needs and to gain the public’s confidence. State security has been a dominant consideration for every government since 2001 and the main political parties have shared a common belief : hardened attitudes towards specific categories of migrants are necessary in the name of social cohesion and in times of restricted public spending.

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Bibliographie

CZAIKA Mathias & Hein DE HAAS, “The Effectiveness of Immigration Policies. A Conceptual Review of Empirical Evidence,” International Migration Institute, University of Oxford, Working Paper 33, April 2011.

DA LOMBA Sylvie, “Legal Status and Refugee Integration : A UK Perspective,” Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 23, n°4, 2010, 415-436.

DEAKIN Nicholas, “‘When the kissing had to stop’ : British politics after Blair,” Observatoire de la société britannique, vol. 9, 2010, 259-278.

DWYER Peter & David BROWN, “Accommodating ‘others’ ? : Housing dispersed, forced migrants in the UK,” Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 30, n° 3, September 2008, 203-218.

Equality Acts 2006, 2010.

Equality and Human Rights Commission – Strategic Plan 2012-2015, presented to Parliament pursuant to Section 4(4) of the Equality Act 2006, London : TSO (The Stationery Office), March 2012.

ERDOS David, “Smoke but no fire ? The politics of a ‘British’ Bill of Rights,” The Political Quarterly, vol. 81, n°2, April-June 2010, 188-198.

EVANS Kathy, “‘Big Society’ in the UK : A Policy Review,” Children & Society, vol. 25, 2011, 164-171.

FLYNN Don, “Supporting the Rights of Migrants in the Regions : Meeting the Challenge of Recession,” Benefits, vol. 17, n°2, 2009, 183-185.

GHOSE Kathy, The Human Rights Act 1998. A Compilation of Ministerial Statements made on behalf of the Government during the Bill’s Passage through Parliament, ILPA, August 2000.

Home Affairs Select Committee, Fifth Report, The Work of the UK Border Agency, December 2011-March 2012, HC 1722.

Home Affairs Select Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2010-12, UK Border Controls, HC1647.

MORRIS Lydia, “Citizenship and Human Rights : Ideals and Actualities,” The British Journal of Sociology, vol. 63, n°1, 2012, 39-46.

MORRIS Lydia, “Rights, Recognition and Judgment : Reflections on the Case of Welfare and Asylum,” British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 14, n° 1, February 2012, 39-56.

TUNSTALL Rebecca et al., Building the Big Society, London : London School of Economics, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, Report 67, June 2011.

WORLEY Claire, “’It’s not about Race. It’s about the Community’ : New Labour and ‘Community Cohesion,” Critical Social Policy, vol. 25, n°4, 2005, 483-496.

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Notes

1 In some cases a person who does not qualify for recognition as a refugee may be given permission to stay under provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), now incorporated into the Human Rights Act 1998. They may be given other forms of leave to stay : humanitarian protection and discretionary leave which are time-limited and must be renewed.

2 Biometric identity cards were introduced in March 2006 (Identity Cards Act 2006). The text was subsequently repealed by the Identity Documents Act 2010.

3 <http://www.labour-party.org.uk/manifestos/1997/1997-labour-manifesto.shtml/>, accessed July 27, 2011.

4 Vincent Latour, « Les métamorphoses du multiculturalisme britannique », Revue française de civilisation britannique, Le défi multiculturel en Grande-Bretagne, vol. 14, n°3, 2007, 23-36.

5 “Citizens should have statutory rights to enforce their human rights in the UK courts. We will by statute incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law to bring these rights home and allow our people access to them in their national courts. The incorporation of the European Convention will establish a floor, not a ceiling, for human rights”, Because Britain Deserves Better, New Labour Manifesto, 1997.

6 David Blunkett, foreword to the White Paper “Secure Borders, Safe Haven,” February 2002, 5.

7 Tony Blair, foreword to the White Paper “Controlling our Borders, Making Migration Work for Britain,” February 2005, 7.

8 There are different types of remedies available when a complaint is upheld: (i) An order declaring the rights of the complainant and respondent in relation to the discriminatory act, (ii) an order requiring compensation to be paid to the complainant by the respondent, (iii) a recommendation that the respondent takes action within a defined period to obviate or reduce the effect on the complainant of a discriminatory act.

9 See the reports of the Home Affairs Select Committee : House of Commons, Home Affairs Select Committee, The Work of the UK Border Agency (November 2010-March 2011), ninth report, HC929, and House of Commons, Home Affairs Select Committee, The Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July 2011), fifteenth report, HC1497-I.

10 Memorandum of the Runnymede Trust to the Home Affairs Select Committee, 2009.

11 Riots in Oldham, Bradford and Birmingham in which Pakistanis and Bangladeshis confronted West Indians. Rivalries between youth gangs, extreme poverty and high unemployment were identified as the most immediate causes.

12 White Paper, 2002, op. cit., chapter 2, 35.

13 Citizenship ceremonies were announced in the 2002 Home Office White Paper. David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, recommended abandoning the “low-key and bureaucratic approach which the UK has adopted to the acquisition of British citizenship.” (35) The Home Office document proposed an inclusive version of the concepts of nationality and citizenship, paying particular attention to the rights and duties attached to them. The text insisted on the promotion of citizenship as a means for the newly naturalised to understand their role in the British society, to adhere to common values shared by all Her Majesty’s subjects. It also provided for some slight modifications in the acquisition of British citizenship, a citizenship not completely redefined but updated “to reflect modern thinking about citizenship”. The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 made these ceremonies mandatory, thereby creating a new condition in the acquisition of British citizenship. The first ceremonies were held in January 2004.

14 Lydia Morris, “Citizenship and Human Rights: Ideals and Actualities,” The British Journal of Sociology, vol. 63, n° 1, 2012, 41.

15 Among the most intrusive measures are iris-scans at airports (IRIS: Iris Recognition Immigration System implemented since June 2005 at Heathrow), CCTV cameras in public places, enhanced facial recognition capacities (Mandrake system in Newham, South London), and DNA databanks to store genetic information.

16 David Erdos, “Smoke but no Fire ? The Politics of a ‘British’ Bill of Rights,” The Political Quarterly, vol. 81, n°2, April-June 2010, 189.

17 Already in 2007 during the annual Conservative Conference David Cameron had promised that his party would stick to Tories’ “core values” such as lower taxes, lower levels of immigration, and the refusal of an ever closer union with the EU... See also Tim Bale, The Conservative Party : From Thatcher to Cameron, Cambridge : Polity Press, 2011.

18 For example, changes to counter-terrorism powers with a reduction to 14 days of the maximum period of pre-charge detention for terrorist offences. In the initial text, the Terrorism Act 2000 provided for a 7 day detention period, extended to 14 days in 2003 and 28 days in 2006.

19 See “Clegg’s Freedom Bill is no Magna Carta,” The Guardian, February 14, 2011.

20 The libertarian or classical liberal perspective is that individual well-being, prosperity, and social harmony are fostered by “as much liberty as possible” and “as little government as necessary”, <http://www.theihs.org/what-libertarian/>, accessed July 12, 2012.

21 House of Commons, Hansard, col. 49-50, July 11, 2012.

22 Consultation paper on the limits on non-EU economic migration launched on the 28th June 2010.

23 See in particular publications produced by the Institute for Race Relations, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Immigration Law Practioners Association and the Refugee Council.

24 Nick Clegg, The Guardian, December 16, 2010.

25 Mathias Czaika & Hein De Haas, “The Effectiveness of Immigration Policies. A Conceptual Review of Empirical Evidence,” International Migration Institute, University of Oxford, Working Paper 33, April 2011, 6.

26 Identity Cards Act 2006, Explanatory Notes, 3-4.

27 Biographical records include the date and place of birth, nationality, gender, immigration status, address, information included at a person’s request. Biometric information relates to an individual’s external characteristics: iris pattern, fingerprints. The identity card system was reformed in 2010 (Identity Documents Act 2010): foreigners still require an ID card for use as a biometric residence permit. The National Identity Register was destroyed in February 2011.

28 Charles Clarke, Home Secretary, foreword to the White Paper “Controlling our Borders : Making Migration Work for Britain,” February 2005.

29 Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Bulletin Spring 2001, 2.

30 Andrew Geddes, “Getting the Best of both Worlds. Britain, the EU and Migration Policy,” International Affairs, vol. 81 n° 4, 2005, 723-740.

31 Examples of opting in :

● participation of British administration in EU programmes that aim at reinforcing border controls (carrier’s obligations for example).

● Britain’s participation in a working group, The Council of the European Union’s Migration and Expulsion Working Party (MEX WP) to increase the rate of removals or the externalisation of British territorial borders with the creation of a special police task force in Calais and in Belgium to improve the controls on people and carriers crossing the Channel.

● Tony Blair’s government also joined in the Eurodac system (Dublin II regulation) which provided for the reception and treatment of asylum seekers, the definition of the refugee status, the fingerprinting of asylum applicants.

32 Tony Blair, PM Press Conference, October 25, 2004, <http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20061004051823/http://number10.gov.uk/page6480 >, accessed July 12, 2012.

33 The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (2002) allowed highly skilled people to enter the UK to look for work or self-employment opportunities. They did not need any job offer prior to their entrance. The system was progressively phased out and was replaced by the Points Based System (2006) which created five “tiers” (i.e. five categories of migrant workers able to enter the UK and to work), replacing the former work permits.

34 Rebecca Tunstall et al., Building the Big Society, London School of Economics, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, Report 67, June 2011.

35 See the website of the National Council for Voluntary Organisation: <http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/networking-discussions/discussions/bigger-picture/-state-sector-8/>, accessed July 12, 2012.

36 Home Office, Integration Matters : A National Strategy for Refugee Integration, Marc 2005.

37 Kathy Evans, “‘Big Society’ in the UK : A Policy Review,” Children & Society, vol. 25, 2011, 164.

38 Don Flynn, “Supporting the Rights of Migrants in the Regions : Meeting the Challenge of Recession,” Benefits, vol. 17, n°2, 2009, 183-185.

39 The UK Border Agency which was responsible for immigration and asylum operations was split in February 2012. The UK Border Force is now the section of the UKBA which manages entry to the UK.

40 The lack of respect of fundamental human rights in these centres has been reported for quite a long time now: see S. Cohen, From the Jews to the Tamils : Britain’s Mistreatment of Refugees, Manchester : South Manchester Law Centre, 1988. Amnesty International, Prisoners without a Voice : Asylum-Seekers Detained in the United Kingdom, London : Amnesty International, 1995. See also the reports of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons which provide an accurate description of the living conditions in immigration detention centres (renamed immigration removal centres). The list of violations includes violence, inhuman and degrading treatment, sanctions and intimidation, racist abuse, violation of private life, intrusive behaviour in private spaces, insufficient help...

41 Although volunteering can be useful for asylum seekers to improve their English and gain working experience, the distinction between volunteering and engaging in work is sometimes very fine. Some migrants fear they may jeopardise their immigration status and on some occasions it has been found by the Employment Appeal Tribunal that some volunteers were in fact employees. See the following case : Advisory Service v. Chaudri UKEAT/1400/97, <http://www.morton-fraser.com/knowledge-hub/fine-line-between-volunteers-and-employees>, and also refer to the website of Volunteering England <http://www.volunteering.org.uk/>, accessed June 8, 2012.

42 The Guardian, July, 11, 2011.

43 Previously solicitors used to receive legal aid for asylum cases based on the number of hours each case took, whereas nowadays there is a fixed fee for each case (£450).

44 House of Commons, Justice Committee, Government’s proposed reform of legal aid, third report HC681-I, March 2011.

45 Lydia Morris, op. cit., XX. Sylvie Da Lomba, “Legal Status and Refugee Integration : A UK Perspective”, Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 23, n°4, 2010, 415-436.

46 “We will allow people who have been in Britain without the correct papers for 10 years, but speak English, have a clean record and want to live here long-term to earn their citizenship. This route to citizenship will not apply to people arriving after 2010,” Liberal Democrats Manifesto, 2010.

47 “Nick Clegg abandons illegal immigrant amnesty proposal,” BBC News, March, 22, 2013.

48 Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) ex parte Q, EWCA, 2003, quoted by Lydia Morris, “An Emergent Cosmopolitan Paradigm ? Asylum, Welfare and Human Rights,” The British Journal of Sociology, 2009, vol. 60, issue 2, 215-235.

49 R (on the application of Refugee Action) v SSHD [2014] EWHC 1033 (Admin). See more at: <http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/united-kingdom/overview-main-changes-previous-report-update#sthash.dRTG9W7R.dpuf >, accessed June 2014.

50 Neil Spicer, “Places of Exclusion and Inclusion. Asylum Seekers and Refugee Experiences of Neighborhoods in the UK,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 34, n°3, 2008, 491-510.

51 Refugees often have unique health needs due to the traumatic reasons they had for leaving their country. Although access to basic health care is available everywhere in the UK, only specific refugee associations are able to detect particular physical and mental health problems and treat them accordingly. Most of these associations are located in London and other major cities in the UK, see Mind, <www.mind.org.uk>.

52 “Refugee dispersal will continue,” BBC News, August, 7, 2001.

53 Ann Singh, “A Cashless Society, the other Side of the Coin,” Institute of Race Relations, December, 22, 2010, <http://www.irr.org.uk/news/a-cashless-society-the-other-side-of-the-coin>, accessed June 2014.

54 See the report of Asylum Support Partnership (ASP), Your Inflexible Friend : The Cost of Living without Cash, November 2010, <http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/Resources/Refugee%20Council/downloads/researchreports/ASP%20-%20azurecard-v4.pdf>, accessed May 20, 2012.

55 Asylum seekers can get permission to work if they have been waiting for an initial Home Office’s decision on their asylum claim for 12 months or more since the lodging of their application and if the delay is due to the Home Office’s fault. These two stringent conditions should be viewed in the light of the 2004-2005 Home Office figures on asylum claims. For that year 88 % of the decisions were made within 4 months and a further 91 % within 6 months. While on the one hand this could be considered as a major improvement in the procedure for granting or refusing asylum, it meant that only a tiny minority of asylum seekers effectively enjoyed permission to work.

56 Satvinder S. Juss, Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship, London : Mansell, 1993, 1.

57 Claire Worley, “‘It’s not about Race. It’s about the Community’ : New Labour and Community Cohesion,” Critical Social Policy, vol. 25, n°4, 2005, 483-496. Nick Lynn & Susan Lea, “‘A Phantom Menace and the New Apartheid’ : the Social Construction of Asylum Seekers in the United Kingdom”, Discourse & Society, vol. 14, n°4, 2003, 425-452. Roy Grenslade, Seeking Scapegoats : The Coverage of Asylum in the UK Press, Institute for Public Policy Research, May 2005.

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Catherine Puzzo, « International Migrants’ Rights in the UK from the 1998 Human Rights Act to the Big Society Concept », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XII-n°7 | 2014, mis en ligne le 30 novembre 2014, consulté le 25 mai 2017. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/6901 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.6901

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Auteur

Catherine Puzzo

Université Toulouse II, France. Catherine Puzzo est Maître de conférences au département d’études anglophones de l’Université de Toulouse Jean-Jaurès et appartient au laboratoire de Cultures Anglo-Saxonnes de la même université (CAS). Elle a publié dans une perspective comparatiste sur les politiques d’immigration en France et en Grande-Bretagne, sur le sort des femmes réfugiées, et sur l’impact des politiques d’immigration et d’asile sur les libertés publiques. Son article le plus récent porte sur les politiques gouvernementales en matière d’immigration et d’asile de la coalition au pouvoir au Royaume Uni : « La politique d’immigration et du droit d’asile depuis mai 2010 : pomme de discorde ou compromis politique ? » in Observatoire de la société britannique, La nouvelle donne politique en Grande-Bretagne (2010-2012), n°12, octobre 2012.

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