After the Macpherson Report on the Lawrence Inquiry, there is much clamour about institutional racism. But the asylum bill will create institutional racism in Britain.
1. 'Dispersal' policy
The government plans to relieve the pressure on London and East Coast housing by moving asylum seekers (on a "no-choice" basis) to other parts of the country with a housing surplus. Effectively this means giving them accommodation on 'sink' estates or in 'hard to let' housing. Putting them in already socially deprived areas is a recipe for conflict. These areas are not strangers to violence, especially considering the resentment to their living conditions, unemployment and the prevalence of drugs. Putting asylum seekers, who often speak little English, into such difficult areas, will increase the likelihood of racial violence.
2. Removal of benefits
The new asylum bill will remove cash benefits for all asylum seekers. Instead of care organised by local Social Services departments, subsistence level vouchers are going to be provided directly from the Home Office. These vouchers will replace cash for asylum seekers and they will not be presentable in part-payment nor will asylum seekers be able receive change for them in shops. The Home Office will have to issue them in several denominations… thus making a new currency for asylum seekers. The Home Office could make its life simpler by issuing out notes of pounds sterling with ALIEN stamped across them in big letters. The use of vouchers will have the same humiliating effect.
3. Reporting of 'suspicious' marriages
Marriage registrars will be under obligation to check people for 'suspicious' marriages and to inform the Immigration Service when in doubt. They will be empowered to ask people what their nationality is and to see documents. One might as well say that the Home Office has decided to outlaw 'mixed marriages' …given the climate of hostility and suspicion they will be greeted by.
4. Employer checks
Prior to 1997, the Labour Party gave a manifesto commitment that they would repeal Section 8 of the 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act. Now they have decided to strengthen it. Section 8 makes it a criminal offence for employers to employ people without the right to work and puts the onus on employers to check their workers' status. To date not a single prosecution has been carried out. But employers are now even more reluctant to hire ethnic minority workers according to the Commission for Racial Equality. The government's response to the increase in discrimination in employment is to introduce a 'code of practice' into the new asylum bill. But this code of practice will be as ineffective as existing Home Office and CRE guidelines as employers continue to deny ethnic minorities job opportunities because it is easier than understanding immigration legislation and checking documents and less expensive if they make a mistake.
5. Checks in society
The 1996 Act made teachers and doctors check for immigration status before providing services. Employers, to avoid criminal sanctions, have been made to check passports. In some of the London hospitals, administrators check documents of patients with "foreign sounding names". Now this practice is being extended to marriage registrars and shopkeepers. If you are black you will have to take your passport with you on your wedding day. If you are an asylum seeker you will be branded in every shop by the currency you use. And the Immigration Officers, who will no longer be checking passports at airports because everyone else will be checking them, will be empowered to arrest people, search people, enter their homes - all without a warrant. They will become the new police force that black people in Britain will have to deal with. As the metropolitan police receive race awareness training, following the Lawrence Inquiry, the Immigration Service will be taking on the task of dawn raids and stopping black people in the street, demanding passports.