THE 'HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT'
Photograph by Rick Findler
The phrase 'Hostile Environment' is used a lot. But what does it mean exactly?
In May 2012, the then Home Secretary Theresa May said in a Telegraph interview: "The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration... What we don't want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they're able to access everything they need."
The 'Hostile Environment' is a set of measures, both administrative and legislative, to make life so miserable for anyone without immigration status, that they will 'self-remove'.
It includes limiting access to employment, housing, healthcare, confiscating a driving licence, freezing bank accounts, restricting rights of appeal against the Home Office's decisions.
At the same time rules are made ever more complex (they have been called Byzantine in the Court of Appeal). And the Home Office has a tendency to appeal decisions then delay the appeal process unnecessarily, and there is even a history of non-compliance with orders of the courts.
After the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd following the Windrush scandal in April 2018, her successor Home Secretary Sajid Javid attempted to rename the 'Hostile Environment' to the 'Compliant Environment'. However, the same issues have continued to exist, nothing has changed.
Why is this relevant for EU citizens?
After the Settled Status deadline of 30 June 2021, any EU citizen or their non-EU family member who has not applied for pre-settled or settled status will face the full force of the Hostile Environment. On top of that they will have lost their lawful status in the UK, and can be subject to removal. Brandon Lewis confirmed this in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt in October 2019.
Below, you can find examples of the Hostile Environment in action.
We would argue these immensely unjust and inhumane laws should be revoked for all - level up citizens' rights instead of creating a race to the bottom for all.
A 'friendly' Valentine's Day tweet by the Home Office in 2013
A sample of coverage from recent years - these stories merely scratch the surface
Three generations of Windrush family struggling to prove they are British
Courtney Lawrence and two-year old son face homelessness in fight over documentation
Department of Education criticised for secretly sharing children's data
Information commissioner acts after complaint that data is used for immigration enforcement
Windrush victim dies without compensation or apology
Hubert Howard has died three weeks after being granted British citizenship, 59 years after arriving in UK
Opinion: The only way around the Home Office’s cruelty is to get your story in the news
It’s appalling that immigration appeals now depend so heavily on getting the media to notice your case: no publicity, no justice
'A dizzying maze': how the UK immigration system is geared to reject
Navigating the roadblocks into Britain gets ever more difficult and expensive, as government hostility leaks into every transaction.
NHS doctor banned from coming back to UK over visa mix-up
Specialist stranded abroad after Home Office decision, amid chronic shortage of doctors
Home Office 'infiltrating' safe havens to deport rough sleepers
The Home Office is using information gathered in “immigration surgeries” at charities and places of worship to deport vulnerable homeless people who are told that attending will help them get financial support. Attendees at ‘immigration surgeries’ at churches and centres told it won’t involve enforcement
UK to deport academic to Democratic Republic of Congo – which she has never visited
Researcher being sent to country notorious for sexual violence, and second Oxford academic refused visa for young son
Home Office 'doomed to repeat the mistakes of Windrush'
A report finds that the government must urgently hit the reset button to ensure the Windrush generation mistakes are not repeated, and the new home secretary, Priti Patel, must end the toxic narratives around immigration..
Chased into 'self-deportation': the most disturbing Windrush case so far
As Amelia Gentleman reflects on reporting one of the UK’s worst immigration scandals, she reveals a new and tragic case
Home Office blocks baby adopted by UK resident from entering country
A baby whose legal guardian is a UK resident has been blocked from entering the country, leaving her and her soon-to-be adoptive mother “stranded" in Pakistan.
David Cameron: The prime mover behind Britain’s hostile environment, who escaped the blame
While Theresa May is seen as the sole architect behind the ‘dehumanising’ policy, ex-ministers detail how the coalition prime minister was its driving force
The Home Office Kept Telling This Grandmother Who's Lived In Britain Since She Was 2 To Prove She Was British
In the latest Home Office U-turn on an embarrassing immigration decision, Davinder Singh just won her citizenship battle, but only after the department was told BuzzFeed News was planning a story.
Home Office chaos and incompetence lead to unlawful detentions, claim whistleblowers
Handling of UK asylum cases compromised by poorly trained and overworked staff
Tory minister says EU citizens fleeing domestic abuse should go home
UK IMMIGRATION Minister Caroline Nokes has said that vulnerable EU migrant women living in Scotland and fleeing domestic abuse should just return to their own countries, it has emerged.
Migrants wrongly told to pay for NHS care upfront, minister admits
Hospitals have wrongly told some migrants needing urgent care to pay for it in advance even though they qualified for free treatment on the NHS, the government has admitted for the first time.
Revealed: how Home Office hires out staff to hunt migrants
Department criticised for ‘escalating hostile environment’ by selling officials’ services to firms
View from Westminster: Don't allow EU citizens to be treated like the Windrush Generation
Harriet Harman MP writes: "It should not be the case that you have fewer protections as an immigrant than you would if you had actually committed a crime. For any individual traumatised by indefinite detention, that’s reason to change the policy. But it is now happening on such a scale that it is really important to deal with it."
Dozens of Caribbean nationals to be deported on first charter flight to Jamaica since Windrush scandal
Exclusive: Around 50 people set to be deported on charter plane – many in UK since they were children – in what campaigners describe as ‘slap in the face’ for Britain's Caribbean community
British man and family made homeless after Home Office policy blocks them from renting property
‘I am an Englishman, I served for nine years in the army, I have worked since I was 16 years old and it breaks my heart that my own government seems quite content to make a British citizen, his two British daughters and lawfully resident wife, homeless’
Dying man given bill for tens of thousands of pounds for NHS treatment
Doctors say making migrant patients pay for NHS palliative care contravenes the Hippocratic oath
Grandparents face deportation after 40 years
The Iranian-born grandparents of a Scottish rugby player are being threatened with deportation.
Mozaffar Saberi, 83, and his wife Rezvan Habibimarand, 73, moved to Edinburgh 40 years ago. They brought up their four children there and now have 11 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Two trains, three trams, 5,000 steps: How a mother and baby have to travel five hours to sign on with the Home Office
‘I wish the Home Office could be made aware’:
The Home Office is trying to force two British-born children with lifelong and complex physical and mental disabilities out of Britain in a move which experts say breaches UK and UN law. “I wish the Home Office could be made aware of the torment and sufferings an applicant goes through as a result of an unlawful and unreasonable decision and its devastating impact especially on his or her children”.
‘They've robbed me of my life’:
Jamaican woman who has lived in UK since she was a child facing deportation after losing court battle. Shankea Stewart, whose grandfather was a member of the Windrush generation, said she felt her life had been “robbed”. A judge ruled that she should go back to Jamaica despite the fact her sick father and most other family members live in Britain.
Revealed: sick, tortured immigrants locked up for months in Britain
Investigation suggests hundreds of vulnerable people are detained indefinitely. An unprecedented snapshot of migrants held in British detention centres found more than half of the sample were either suicidal, seriously ill or victims of torture.
Man deemed security threat over tax error faces homelessness
The family of an engineer who trained Ministry of Defence engineers is being made homeless because the Home Office has still not completed a review of a controversial immigration policy it promised to report on by July.
'I was treated like an animal': A father arrested and pinned to the ground naked by immigration officers acting on a false tip-off
The DVLA had incorrectly briefed Immigration Enforcement that he was in the UK illegally. Tapiwa’s case reveals the human cost of the information sharing created by the “hostile environment” policy.
'My life is in ruins': wrongly deported Windrush people facing fresh indignity
Those who were sent to Jamaica after committing criminal offences are a low priority for UK government
British boy, 6, who has lived in country since birth refused entry to UK on return from holiday
Mohamed Bangoura, born in Leeds in 2012, blocked from reuniting with his mother in Britain after Home Office revoked his passport
Windrush scandal: boxer trapped in Jamaica for 13 years allowed back to UK
Vernon Vanriel came to the UK in 1962. This week he learned he could return but, ill and destitute, wonders how he will afford the fare
Hostile environment: anatomy of a policy disaster
Senior figures who worked within and alongside Home Office – including former immigration enforcement chiefs – explain what went so terribly wrong
Child passport renewal error hits hundreds
More than 1,000 children born in the UK to parents from eight EU countries have been refused British passport renewals because of a Home Office error.
Families torn apart as visa misery hits foreign spouses
‘Hostile environment’ has left couples with one non-EU partner facing discrimination, delays and huge bills
What happens if you mistakenly apply for British citizenship instead of indefinite leave to remain?
What happens when an American graduate, about to become eligible for indefinite leave to remain having lived lawfully in the UK for almost a decade, incorrectly thinks that he is eligible to apply for British citizenship and applies for that instead?
‘I left my daughter at nursery. I didn’t see her for a month’: how UK splits migrant families
The Home Office uses similar tactics to those of the Trump administration – with devastating effects for parents and children
Revealed: depth of Home Office failures on Windrush
Government received repeated warnings over several years but failed to take action
Widowed father ordered to leave UK against advice of Home Office's own lawyers
Andrew Farotade refused leave to remain under rules intended to tackle terrorism
Footage emerges of 'distressing' home visit by immigration officers
Footage has emerged of a dawn immigration enforcement operation by six officers, showing a “distressing” and “intimidating” sequence of events.
The visit to the home of a woman who was in the process of regularising her visa status has raised fresh questions about the fairness and efficiency of Home Office policy.
‘Hostile Environment’ immigration policy sees abused women without support and deported
The ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy is being used by abusive men to threaten and control women, and the Government’s focus on immigration enforcement over support is trapping too many women in violent situations – say women’s groups who launch a new briefing and press MPs on the matter at an event in Parliament today (2 May).
British man who has never even been abroad threatened with deportation to Uganda
Kyle Herbert, from Shrewsbury, was astonished to receive the letter which ordered him to leave the country or risk a £5,000 fine, imprisonment and removal by force
St Athan dad's bid to prove British citizenship for first holiday
John Ingram, 39, was born in Germany while his parents were serving in the RAF.
The father of two, living in St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan, said his birth certificate was rejected when he tried to get a passport for a trip to Spain.
Immigration solicitor Sheona York says it was clear from 2013 that people in the UK lawfully would be affected, and Diane Astin says the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) has much to answer for
Government knew for years that Windrush generation hurt by 'hostile environment'
Home Office letter dated May 2016 shows ministers knew of immigration policy’s impacts
Pressure grows on May and Rudd over Windrush scandal
Sayeeda Warsi says fault with ‘hostile environment’ lies with policy itself not implementation
DWP sent Windrush pensioner £33,000 bill for disability benefits
Valerie Baker was ordered to return ‘overpayments’ for past claims and threatened with deportation
'I thought I would die': Windrush man left homeless after brain surgery
Winston Jones, 62, was evicted while having surgery and denied a hostel place because he had no proof of UK arrival at 16
Windrush generation tell of holidays that led to exile and heartbreak
One man was stranded abroad for 21 months, while another missed his mother’s funeral
Former Middlesex fast bowler in immigration limbo for seven years
Richard Stewart came to the UK in 1955 and paid taxes for five decades but is having problems getting a British passport
Amber Rudd admits she doesn't know if long term UK residents were wrongly deported in Windrush cases
Labour MP David Lammy blames policies introduced by Theresa May, telling the Commons: 'This is a day of national shame'
The children of Windrush: 'I’m here legally, but they’re asking me to prove I’m British'
Eight people tell of the harrowing experience of having to prove their status despite having been in the UK legally for half a century
Government 'failing to act on serious concerns about NHS data sharing' raised by doctors
MPs accuse government of ‘wholly unsatisfactory’ response after it refuses to act on warnings that immigrants are ‘too frightened’ to access healthcare because of data-sharing policy
'I couldn't hold my newborn son': the families split by visa laws
You meet a foreign partner and dream of a life together. But unless you have enough money, UK visa rules make it almost impossible
I've been an NHS doctor for five years. The Home Office wants to deport me
Dr Luke Ong was five months away from becoming a GP when he made a simple error with his application to remain in the UK
Vulnerable EU citizens risk failing to secure right to remain in UK
Academics warn that people may not be aware they need to apply for ‘settled status’ after Brexit
Man living in UK for 56 years loses job over immigration papers.
Michael Braithwaite, a special needs assistant, was told he could not be employed at school as he did not have biometric card.
Londoner denied NHS cancer care: 'It's like I'm being left to die'
When Albert Thompson went for his first radiotherapy session for prostate cancer in November he says he was surprised to be taken aside by a hospital administrator and told that unless he could produce a British passport he would be charged £54,000 for the treatment.
Thompson has lived in London for 44 years, having arrived from Jamaica as a teenager, and although he has worked as a mechanic and paid taxes for more than three decades, the Home Office is disputing his eligibility to remain.
‘I felt a nausea of fury’ – how I faced the cruelty of Britain's immigration system
When Nesrine Malik was finally granted British citizenship her relief was dulled by exhaustion after years of struggle against a Home Office bent on reducing immigration to the illusory ‘tens of thousands’
'I miss her so much': NHS doctor separated from daughter
An Egyptian doctor recruited by the NHS in 2016 has had an application for her three-year-old daughter to come to the UK rejected.
Home Office faces legal challenges over 'right to rent' migrant policy
Two separate legal challenges have been launched against the government's 'right to rent' policy, which critics claim forces landlords to act as border guards. Home Office rules in force since February 2016 demand that landlords check if a potential tenant has the right to live in the UK before letting a property to them.
Now, in the latest of a series of legal challenges against the government's 'hostile environment' for undocumented migrants, two cases are being taken to court which could end up reversing the policy.
Number of EU nationals being detained at immigration removal centres increases fivefold since Conservatives came into power
Almost 1,300 EU nationals were detained in the third quarter of last year, compared with 242 when the coalition came into power in 2010, according to Home Office figures.
Home Office gets banks to check immigration status of account holders
Millions of current accounts to be scrutinised in hunt for migrants liable for deportation or who have absconded from detention.
Home Office policy of deporting homeless EU citizens is illegal, High Court rules
Mrs Justice Lang said measures introduced last year were discriminatory and violated European law, following a challenge by two Polish men and a Latvian.
The three men were all facing removal because they were found by police and immigration officers sleeping rough.
Mrs Justice Lang said homelessness alone did not meet the legal requirements for deportation, even if accompanied by offences including begging, drinking and nuisance.
“There has been a significant increase in rough sleepers of all nationalities,” she said. “The policy discriminated unlawfully against EEA [European Economic Area] nationals and rough sleepers.”
Home Office threatens to deport Polish man seeking help after attack
A Polish national and his wife said they went to the police after their landlord walked into the flat they were renting with two other men, all wearing balaclavas, and forced the couple out after threatening them with a kitchen knife and a baseball bat.
The wife was injured in the attack and needed hospital treatment, she said. However, when the couple reported the attack to the police, they questioned the couple about their immigration status and handed the husband over to immigration officials, who detained him in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow where he remains.
The death of a Pole was one of three suicides in detention centres in a month, and relatives claim the Home Office is covering up cell deaths
Britain remains the only country in Europe with no time limit on immigration detention. With detainees’ lives in limbo, psychologists agree that the system affects mental health. Two years ago MPs joined campaigners in urging a 28-day limit on immigration detention, and only then as an “absolute last resort”.
Botanics chief 'flabbergasted' over Brexit uncertainty facing French wife
She said was refused the card on the grounds of self-sufficiency and although she did “a bit of upholstery”, she relied on her husband.
Academics engaged in overseas research must frequently travel abroad to work. The Home Office, however, uses the time spent out of the country by foreign academics while they are working to deny their applications for settlement visas
“The threat hanging over me of being thrown out of the country at any point has been massively destabilising and damaging both in terms of my career and my personal life. We feel completely let down by this country. The Home Office have had my passport for over a year and I have no idea when I will get it back. I have not seen my elderly parents in over a year and a half now. Why would the Home Office want to get rid of two highly skilled, UK-trained heritage professionals providing valuable contributions to the British Museum and a major UK higher education institution? Most countries want to retain highly trained experts, not push them out.”
A woman who reported being kidnapped and raped over a six month period to the police was arrested as she sought care
The shocking case reveals how far Theresa May's 'hostile environment' towards immigrants has gone and raises serious questions about whether immigration enforcement practices are now discouraging the victims of crimes from reporting them to the police.
'Hostile environment': the hardline Home Office policy tearing families apart
This Australian NHS critical care nurse with 3 British children, the youngest of which needs constant care, was refused an extension to her spouse visa. She told some mothers at the school gate about her plight, and they organised a campaign, persuading at least 50 people to email their local MP – who happens to be health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Hunt rang the family and promised to personally take up their battle. Two weeks later her visa was in her hand.
“I’m still deeply shocked by the experience,” she says. “The Home Office rang and apologised to us, but didn’t explain what had gone wrong. The thing is, it’s turned out fine for us, but what about people who don’t have any friends, or an engaged, influential MP? Or, frankly, who aren’t middle class and vocal? It’s a terrible system. It’s really unfair”
A woman who had been in Britain for 50 years received a letter informing her that she was an illegal immigrant and was going to be removed and sent back to Jamaica, the country she left when she was 10 and has never visited since
Last month, she spent a week at Yarl’s Wood detention centre before being sent to the immigration removal centre at Heathrow, where detainees are taken just before they are flown out of the country. It was only a last-minute intervention from her MP and a local charity that prevented a forced removal.
Vulnerable women ‘still locked up in Yarl's Wood immigration centre’
Vivian (not her real name), from West Africa, was held in Yarl’s Wood despite disclosing in her asylum interview with the Home Office that she had been forced into prostitution by her husband. The Home Office accepted she was a survivor of gender-based violence, yet Vivian was still detained for six months.
The cost of Access to Justice as a Constitutional Issue
The issue of access to justice, and specifically the cost of litigation as a bar to accessing justice, is rightly becoming a major constitutional issue in the UK.
“It is all very well for us to sing the praises of our legal systems, to congratulate ourselves on the high quality of our judges and lawyers, and to take pride in the popularity of the common law in international business. But we have a serious problem with access to justice for ordinary citizens and small and medium sized businesses.”
Theresa May has been asked to intervene in the extraordinary case of an American couple who’ve lived in Inverness for years, and face being deported because of a “retrospective” change to immigration laws
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford asked the Prime Minister to meet with him to discuss the case of Russell and Ellen Felber, who have spent more than £400,000 buying and refurbishing a guest house in the Highland capital.
A family with three young British children is set to be torn apart by immigration rules after the dad lost his job in Dubai and his wife was denied a visa to the UK
The family say the Home Office doesn't think the children's lives would be disrupted if the mother doesn't live with them.
A British stroke victim who uses a wheelchair, requires 24-hour supervision to keep him alive and cannot speak, write or reliably understand what is said to him, has been told by the Home Office that he must become the sole carer for his two young British children while his wife travels to the Philippines to apply for a visa to care for the family
The Home Office said there were no 'exceptional circumstances' allowing her to apply for a visa from within the UK.
British-American family split across Atlantic after Home Office error
The Home Office is urgently reviewing the case of a British-American family hit by costs of £45,000 and split between different sides of the Atlantic after it refused to reverse a visa decision based on a misinterpretation of its own rules.
A British man has been told his Ecuadorian wife cannot settle in the UK despite the couple having three young children, including a baby who is still breastfeeding.
The Home Office letter states: "The right to family life is qualified and balanced against the need to maintain an effective immigration and border control.”
A distressed husband has hit out at the Home Office spouse visa system after his Thai wife of eight years was denied residence in the UK, due to insufficient funds in his bank account
The couple have two children, both British citizens, and the refusal means that he has not seen his wife or daughter, almost three, for more than a year.
A devastated St Albans dad-to-be has said his new family will be torn apart when his wife is deported to China
Their first application for a spousal visa was refused because of an income miscommunication, which he says is now resolved.
His wife is now pregnant and they have received a refusal to the second application, seven months later - during which time she has had no access to NHS treatment.
The decision notice letter said "There is no reason why you could not relocate to China and enjoy your family life there."
The two adopted children of an American NHS specialist and his British wife have been granted visas, but only after a newspaper highlighted their plight
The family had repeatedly failed to persuade the Home Office to give their two adopted sons, Benjamin and Edward, aged 10 and 12, permission to live in the UK. They were stopped at Heathrow in March 2016 and the two boys refused entry, although the couple’s third biological child was allowed into the country, leaving the family stranded on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
A husband and wife of 15 years face a nail-biting wait for officials to decide if they will be reunited after months apart
Having lived in Asia and the Middle East – most recently in Qatar – they moved to the home of his widowed mother 18 months ago.
“In all of the places we’ve lived, when we provided documents to show we were a family, the process of getting a visa was pretty straightforward,” said the 56-year-old, originally from Tilbury.
“The only place we’ve faced problems is here in the UK, where I came to be closer to my mother and send the boys to a local school. In accordance with the rules, my wife left when required.”
'When someone is sleeping rough they need help – not deportation'
Permission was granted to seek a judicial review of the Home Office policy of deporting rough sleepers. The treatment shows a complete lack of empathy, and a rigidity that refuses to consider the complexities of human life.
A Fijian father-of-two who has settled in Wales after serving in the British Army for 12 years claims he’s been told he can no longer legally work while his application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK is considered by the Home Office
He claims the application for British Citizenship was unsuccessful because he had three points on his driving licence, so he reapplied in September 2016, and claims he was then advised to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK instead, which he then did in February this year.
A Canadian biodiversity lecturer at the University of Glasgow living in Bearsden, has been told he must leave his wife and two children after the Home Office refused to renew his visa
His wife qualifies for British citizenship and is applying and his youngest daughter was born in the UK.
A Yorkshire family are being ripped apart after a three year battle with the Home Office to remain in the UK.
Faced with staying here alone, the Leeds born war veteran - who served in two Gulf wars, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and did three tours of Bosnia - will have to leave his job, pals and elderly and ill parents to keep his family together.
The couple got married in 2006 and have three teenage children.
A British former soldier is being forced to live apart from his wife and three young children after the Home Office refused to grant her a visa
His children are allowed into the UK, but his wife is not - and he claims he has not been told why.
He launched a visa appeal, which takes 18 months to come through the courts. He cannot afford legal representation and is not entitled to legal aid.
An Australian family win fight against deportation from Scotland
Gregg and Kathryn Brain and their seven-year-old son, Lachlan, became ensnared in a tortuous battle with immigration bureaucracy after the post-study work visa scheme that initially attracted them to Scotland was retrospectively cancelled by the UK government.
American mother who has been told she must leave her British husband and daughter in the UK, with the family apart for up to a year because of the government’s minimum income rules
In the initial letter refusing a spousal visa, the Home Office said it had no concerns that their two-year-old daughter's welfare would be disadvantaged if she was separated from her mother.
A FAMILY of five who returned to Scotland almost two years ago after the British father’s elderly parents’ health started to fail faces being split up after the Home Office refused his Australian wife permission to stay here.
The couple have been married for 19 years and have three children, the eldest born in Scotland, the younger two born in Australia but holding dual UK-Australian citizenship.
Their MP said "It’s mad, crass and insensitive and is tearing apart the very families the Government claims to support. There’s no compassion or common decency in the immigration policies of the UK Government. What I’ve detected from many of the messages I’ve had and you’ve had is that people are furious about this and rightly so.”
Read the article 4 Apr 2016
Suspected terrorists can only be held for 14 days without charge, yet asylum-seekers and migrants can be held indefinitely
Detention has been described as the “black hole at the heart of British justice”. Thousands of people, most of whom have been convicted of no crime, detained for as long as government officials wish.
Britain is the only country in Europe to allow the indefinite detention of migrants – leaving them in a legal limbo condemned as “barbaric” and abhorrent” by critics.