Posted: 4 March 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
4 March 2019, London
Delegates at London Labour regional conference on Sunday voted overwhelmingly for a motion to combat the anti-migrant Hostile Environment locally and nationally, launching a campaign to kick Home Office “spies” out of Labour-run councils and to scrap “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF).
NRPF conditions are imposed on many migrants and deny access to housing support and most social security benefits. Campaigners have highlighted consequences including children denied school meals; victims of domestic violence trapped in abusive homes; and the lack of a social safety net leaving migrants more vulnerable to exploitation at work. Labour has not yet committed to scrapping the condition.
The motion criticised the “antagonistic” practice of embedding On-Site Immigration Officers (OSIOs) from the Home Office within councils. OSIOs harvest data and sit in on meetings between councils and vulnerable migrant families seeking help. Parents subject to NRPF whose children are at risk of destitution have the right to emergency funds from councils, but campaigners say that unprecedented funding cuts have encouraged councils to strictly gatekeep access, and an OSIO’s presence acts to intimidate and deter migrants from seeking help to which they are entitled.
Councils are not legally obliged to host OSIOs – they do so voluntarily, paying the Home Office over £400 per day. Lewisham Council removed their OSIO last month after demands from local campaigners, who also co-authored the motion. But OSIOs remain embedded in a number of councils in London and across the country. The conference called on all Labour-run councils to immediately expel OSIOs, to prioritise the safeguarding of children and to campaign for the government to reverse funding cuts and end all use of NRPF policies against migrants.
Councillor James McAsh from Southwark, where the OSIO was removed last year, told a conference fringe event about the issue: “The only Hostile Environment we should be creating in Labour councils is not for migrants but the Home Office.”
Marcus Thorne from Lewisham for Migrants, a co-author of the motion, said in his conference speech: “For too long, the Hostile Environment went unchallenged by the Labour Party. To expose this government for the sham it is, Labour should finally bring truth to the lies that are told about migration. We must resist being the government’s silent administrator for their ongoing austerity program, and resolutely campaign against these callous attacks on our communities.”
Ana Oppenheim from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement said: “As well as doing everything possible to resist the effects of the Hostile Environment locally, Labour must fight to put an end to these cruel and racist policies once and for all at the national level. The next Labour manifesto should pledge to end NRPF and guarantee equal access to decent social security for everyone who lives in our society, no matter where they come from.”