On the 10th January 2019, Lewisham Deptford’s General Committee voted overwhelmingly to send a motion calling on all Labour-run London councils to cease the employment of embedded immigration officers in a direct challenge against collusion with the government’s reprehensible hostile environment policies.
The motion is chiefly concerned with the policies administered by councils and the Home Office to enforce the recovery or retention of funds related to migrants with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) status.
NRPF is a condition applied to most migrants, ensuring exclusion from welfare benefits. However, migrant families may present to their Council seeking help under Section 17 of the Children Act, to protect their children from destitution. This support is provided from Council budgets.
The motion states: “Incentivised by austerity, many London councils are neglecting their legal duty, prioritising gatekeeping over children’s safety, and leaving migrant families with young children street homeless. Antagonistic practices including embedding On-Site Immigration Officers (OSIOs) within the council deter migrants from claiming support.” The controversial use of councils employing OSIOs (a service they have to pay for) has been documented by advocacy groups including Sisters Uncut and human rights organisation Liberty.
Speaking at the General Committee meeting, local migrants’ rights campaigner Nicole Obidowski gave an impassioned speech in favour of the motion: “These policies are leading directly to young children, pregnant women and domestic abuse victims sleeping on the streets. From housing to employment, the NHS, education and social services – no matter where an immigrant turns, the Home Office is there. We must work methodically to break down these policies, in order to restore dignity, stability and fairness in the lives of those who contribute so much to our society.”
The motion which has also been adopted by Bethnal Green and Bow CLP, will be heard and debated at London Regional Conference held on the 2nd – 3rd March 2019.
Read the motion sent to London Regional Conference here