MPs must stop “informing” on people to the Home Office’s immigration hotline, migrant groups have warned.
The call comes following the release of official figures, which were uncovered by a parliamentary question, that 723 people have been reported by MPs to immigration enforcement since the government’s “hostile environment” policy was introduced in 2012.
Fifteen leading organisations working with migrants have today written to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to express deep concern over hundreds of cases of MPs reporting their constituents for immigration crime.
The letter, which has been signed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Doctors of the World and Bail for Immigration Detainees among others, describes the revelation as a “fundamental breach of trust” which leaves many migrants fearful of approaching their MP.
Advice groups say they can no longer recommend people approach their MP for support despite migrants often having “nowhere to turn” for help with immigration cases following years of legal aid cuts.
They are urging MPs to sign a pledge promising not to report them to the Home Office.
More than 100 MPs from all political parties, including shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, have already added their names to the “MPs not Border Guards” pledge, which was launched by Migrants Organise, one of the signatories of the letter, and campaign group Global Justice Now in the summer.
The letter reads: “It is vital that people affected by the immigration system and the hostile environment can seek help from their parliamentary representatives.
“As organisations supporting migrants and refugees, we have, until now, regularly advised our service users to contact their MPs where necessary. MPs have a responsibility to advocate for all their constituents, regardless of immigration status.
“To report constituents to the Home Office in the present circumstances is a fundamental breach of trust. Many migrants are now fearful of contacting their MP, effectively excluding them from democratic representation.”
Satbir Singh, chief executive of Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, questioned whether MPs passing constituent data for immigration enforcement breaches data protection
“MPs should not be taking it upon themselves to act as “border guards”, betraying the trust of their constituents and perpetuating a culture of hostility towards migrants. Have we not learnt anything from the scandal and tragedy of Windrush?
“MPs acting as border guards puts highly vulnerable people at risk, driving them further underground and into the shadows.”
Akram Salhab, Campaigns and Advocacy Officer at Migrants Organise, said their members now afraid of approaching their MPs lest their reaching out for support be used to detain and deport them.
“All political parties, whether in Government or not, can end this practice today by instructing their MPs not to share their constituent’s data for immigration enforcement purposes,” he said.
The Speaker of the House of Commons has been approached by HuffPost UK for a comment.