PM CHECK: Immigration officer Paul Wylie shows David Cameron around a house on Dec 18 in Southall, London where up to 14 people had been living in a three-bedroom home, which was raided earlier in the day by Immigration officers (PA)
PRIME MINISTER David Cameron's proposed immigration bill could create a “climate of ethnic profiling”, warns the UN refugee agency.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), condemned the proposals saying it “could contribute toward a climate of misunderstanding and ethnic profiling, which in the long term could prove detrimental to social cohesion”.
In a highly critical document, Guterres raised concerns that the new immigration bill will damage communities and lead to the marginalisation of refugees and asylum-seekers.
He warned that legal refugees and asylum-seekers will be caught up in the new restrictions as landlords, GPs and banks will find it difficult to interpret individuals’ immigration status.
The commissioner said these protected groups would suffer discrimination if the legislation went ahead.
"The provisions of the bill appear likely to result in asylum-seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection being stigmatised in the public mind and in their being denied access to housing or bank accounts," the UNHCR said in a briefing note to MPs.
He added: "The UN high commissioner for refugees is concerned that the types of documentation carried by asylum-seekers, refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and stateless people can be varied and complex, and landlords and other service providers are likely to misinterpret the legality of their status.
"It will also impose an additional administrative burden on them. These challenges may have unintended consequences such as the denial of housing and other services to asylum-seekers, refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection that result in their marginalisation and inhibit their integration in the United Kingdom."
Labour has said it backs some principles of the immigration bill but will try to amend some of the details.
During scrutiny of the legislation, Helen Jones, a shadow Home Office minister, said she was concerned that British citizens from black or ethnic minority communities would be targeted for checks by banks and GPs "even though they may well have been born here".
She added: "The worry I have is that if someone comes in from a black or ethnic minority background, the bank will not know whether they have leave to remain in the UK.
"The suspicion is that the bank will say 'produce a document' – a passport or whatever. What will happen if that person does not have a passport?"