A refugee charity has organised a national petition against major aspects of the government’s Immigration Bill.
Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Forum is supporting the Movement Against Xenophobia (MAX), a campaign set up at the end of last year to oppose legislation which has been introduced in a ‘climate of hatred’.
The Refugee Forum wants the government to make amendments to the Bill to scrap requirements that all private landlords must check the immigration status of their tenants or face a £3,000 fine and GP surgeries must check that patients are British citizens or have leave to remain in the UK.
Phil Cooper, media officer at the Refugee Forum, says this is ‘turning ordinary people into border guards’ and could mean landlords would avoid letting property to anyone who looked or sounded foreign while people eligible for medical treatment could be refused by mistake.
However, the Home Office said it was targeting illegal immigrants who abuse the system and flout British laws.
“Immigration has become a major political issue and this legislation has been devised by Home Secretary Theresa May to create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants,” said Mr Cooper.
“But, in her desire to be seen as tough, the government has produced a Bill that threatens to have a negative impact on all ethnic communities and to undermine British justice.”
The forum launched in 2000 to ensure refugees’ voices are heard and play a full part in the local community. It represents refugees from Iraq and Iran as well as Bosnia, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Mr Cooper added: “Hammersmith and Fulham is home to thousands of refugees and migrants who are living and working here quite legally.
“The different ethnic groups and the host community have got on well together for many years. This situation is under threat because of this legislation which is why we want to see the major amendments to the Bill.”
Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said: “The Immigration Bill will stop migrants using public services to which they are not entitled, reduce the factors which encourage people to come to the UK and make it easier to remove people who should not be here.
“We will continue to welcome the brightest and best migrants who want to contribute to our economy and society and play by the rules. But the law must be on the side of people who respect it, not those who break it.
He added: “Hard-working people expect and deserve an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who abuse the system and flout the law.”
The Immigration Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on March 3.
Visit you.38degrees.org.uk to sign the petition.