THE BLOG
07/10/2015 05:48 BST | Updated 06/10/2016 06:12 BST

Theresa May Far More Dangerous Than Migrants

Theresa May's speech yesterday at Conservative Party Conference should be seen as a chilling warning to those who hoped for a humane response to Europe's refugee crisis. Boldly declaring that high migration was a challenge to "societal cohesion" Theresa seems ever more willing to adopt both the rhetoric and policy of Farage and his purple agitators.

Theresa May's speech yesterday at Conservative Party Conference should be seen as a chilling warning to those who hoped for a humane response to Europe's refugee crisis. Boldly declaring that high migration was a challenge to "societal cohesion" Theresa seems ever more willing to adopt both the rhetoric and policy of Farage and his purple agitators.

Yet her speech masks that it is the Home Office under Theresa May that provides some of the greatest obstacles to a cohesive society. That it is Theresa May and her Conservative colleagues, not migrants, that increasingly is making society more striated, communities isolated and less stable.

The clearest instance is the mammoth Immigration Bill passed last parliament, with scant opposition from either Labour or Lib Dems. The far reaching bill's underlying goal was to create an environment so hostile that undocumented migrants would find life in the UK impossible and therefore incentivize "self-deportation".

By making it harder for undocumented migrants to find homes, set up bank accounts or work these people will be even more vulnerable. Even more reliant on the black market and the potential abuses therein. What's more these measures poorly distinguish between those with leave to stay in the UK and those without.

Under Theresa May's new regime landlords now face a legal burden to check the immigration status of tenants. Many migrant forums warn that as a result migrants will find it much harder to find housing. These concerns have even been echoed by Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), who said: "Checking immigration status is complicated so landlords may shy away from letting to anyone they believe isn't British, even if they have a legal right to live in the UK - especially if they face a jail sentence for getting it wrong." Theresa May is actively empowering landlords to make bigoted decisions whilst disenfranchising migrant communities.

Similar checks were introduced in the NHS, with doctors now expected to check the migration status of patients. As well as overtaxing overburdened A&E departments and GP offices these moves will discourage many from seeking needed healthcare. Many migrants despite paying taxes are now expected to pay an extra NHS surcharge, unfairly penalising many. Theresa May has effectively introduced a tax for being foreign.

Beyond the bill Theresa May's new Prevent strategy is already throwing up alarming results. The government's approach to tackling extremism has long been criticised for unfairly stigmatising communities with a blunt approach to dealing with radicalisation. Under Theresa May's leadership these issues have become more pronounced with new legal requirements for child care providers and schools to challenge extremism.

The blunt approach has already seen a young student questioned over ISIS for discussing the environment in French class and a university student questioned for taking a book out of the library on terrorism for his counter terrorism class. Prevent at its worst risks creating an environment that sees thought crimes in every student while issuing a chilling freeze on free speech. The free speech needed to openly challenge and beat back extremism.

It is also Theresa May's government that has cynically cut back funding for migrants to learn English, whilst lambasting those who cannot speak it. In August the government scrapped English courses for 16,000 migrants on job seekers allowance, on top of an existing 24% cut to Further Education.

As a collective set of actions Theresa May's government has done more to alienate, isolate and disempower migrants than another other Home Secretary in a generation. These actions that threaten migrants attempts to successfully build a life in the UK. It is why her hypocrisy to declare migrants as a risk to "societal cohesion" is both offensive and harmful.

There is an alternative however. An alternative unlikely to be picked up by Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham. A man who has spoke fondly of the same type of nativism and migrant blaming that Theresa May espouses. It is only the Green Party who have consistently stood up for the rights of migrants and loudly declared that refugees are welcome. It is only the Greens who will challenge every facet of Theresa May's anti-migrant agenda.

The antidote to this shallow migrant blaming is to look at the real causes of dysfunction in society. Where employers exploit labour to lower wages a mandatory living wage is needed. In places where resources are strained investment is needed to build new homes, new jobs and new public services. When the Tories only offer austerity, attacks on workers rights and a false living wage can it be any wonder Theresa May finds it easier to blame refugees and migrants?