DUP mem­ber among politi­cians to phone im­mi­gra­tion hot­line

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY MICHAEL SHEILS McNAMEE

A DUP MP or a mem­ber of their staff was among a group of more than 60 po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives to use an im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment hot­line.

The fig­ure emerged amid con­cerns about vul­ner­a­ble con­stituents po­ten­tially be­ing de­terred from con­tact­ing MPs.

In re­sponse to a ques­tion from Labour MP David Lammy, the Home Of­fice dis­closed that in 2017 there had been 68 in­ci­dents of MPs or their staff mak­ing re­fer­rals to the im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment hot­line.

Of these, 34 came from Con­ser­va­tive mem­bers, 32 from Labour, one from the DUP and one from the Lib­eral Democrats.

It is not clear which DUP MP used the hot­line, and the party did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Writ­ten re­sponses also re­vealed that be­tween the end of Septem­ber in 2012 and May 25, 2018, MPs re­ported im­mi­gra­tion abuse to the Home Of­fice on 723 oc­ca­sions.

A coali­tion of 15 char­i­ties pre- sented Com­mons speaker John Ber­cow with a pe­ti­tion with the sig­na­tures of 107 MPs who have pledged not to con­tact im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment on their con­stituents.

No Con­ser­va­tive MPs have signed the let­ter, stat­ing the im­por­tance of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rule of law.

A num­ber of Labour MPs also did not sign it.

The char­i­ties high­light the fact that with cuts to le­gal aid and ad­vice groups, many in­di­vid­u­als have no one to turn to but their MP.

The let­ter con­tain­ing the pledge was first re­ported by the BBC.

It calls on Mr Ber­cow to put the is­sue be­fore the House of Com­mons at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity, and “re­quest that party whips in­struct their MPs to im­me­di­ately cease the prac­tice”.

“MPs have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­vo­cate for all their con­stituents, re­gard­less of im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,” the let­ter reads.

“Many mi­grants are now fear­ful of con­tact­ing their MP, ef­fec­tively ex­clud­ing them from demo­cratic rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

Sat­bir Singh, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Joint Coun­cil for the Wel­fare of Im­mi­grants — one of the groups which sub­mit­ted the let­ter — said every­one has a right to seek ad­vice from their MP in a “con­fi­den­tial and safe en­vi­ron­ment”.

“Par­lia­ment must clar­ify whether pass­ing con­stituent data to im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment breaches data pro­tec­tion,” Mr Singh said.

There have been calls this week for North­ern Ire­land to be given con­trol over its own im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, with 21 busi­ness groups sign­ing a let­ter to the Theresa May high­light­ing the po­ten­tial dan­gers of a post-Brexit fall in the amount of labour avail­able in North­ern Ire­land.

Since the Brexit vote in June 2016, the num­ber of EU na­tion­als from out­side the UK work­ing in North­ern Ire­land has fallen from 54,000 to 40,000.

❝ Mi­grants are fear­ful of con­tact­ing MP, ex­clud­ing them from rep­re­sen­ta­tion

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