Over the past decade, the government has rolled out a series of measures with the specific aim of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for people who are currently residing in the UK without immigration status. These measures prevent people without the correct status from accessing employment, housing, public funds, free healthcare, and financial services, and are designed to encourage them to leave the UK of their own accord.

In our interim report for this project, Access denied, we found that it had contributed to forcing individuals into destitution, fostered racism and discrimination, and was a driving factor in the emergence of the Windrush scandal. We highlighted evidence that the Home Office’s enforcement of rules on illegal working had disproportionately affected specific ethnic groups and that requirements for landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants had introduced new forms of discrimination into the private rental sector. We found little evidence to show that this approach to enforcement is encouraging individuals to voluntarily leave the UK and we reported that it had damaged the reputation of the Home Office and created policy paralysis within the department.

In this final report, we assess six different policy options for addressing the adverse impacts of the hostile environment on individuals and communities and for reforming the current system of immigration enforcement.