“We are landlords – not immigration officials”

Since December 2014, landlords across Birmingham and the Black Country in the United Kingdom (UK) have been obliged to check the immigration status of their tenants, and face a fine of up to £3,000 if they fail to comply. Representing 20,000 landlords and 250,000 properties in the UK, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) strongly opposes this obligation. When the law was proposed the RLA responded to the UK Home Office that it is wrong to expect landlords who are “untrained British civilians” with no expertise in immigration matters to take on the work of immigration officials, who are “trained UK border agency staff”. Tackling irregular migration in this way is misleading and will not rebuild public confidence. Due to the sheer diversity of identification documents – some 404 different documents across Europe alone – such a non-standardised system is too complicated for landlords to handle. Furthermore, it may lead to increased discrimination because many landlords will prefer the easy option of only renting to UK nationals.

The EU is currently evaluating its Facilitation Directive (2002/90/EC) which states that anyone who intentionally assists an undocumented migrant to enter or transit across the EU is breaking the law, as well as those who profit financially by helping undocumented migrants to reside in the EU. Social Platform believe that service providers should not have to report undocumented migrants they encounter, and they should not have to bear the burden of acting as immigration officers. If you are a service provider who has ever felt pressure to exclude undocumented migrants from the service you provide, we urge you to share your experiences with us by filling in our online form.

On a positive note, the Council of Europe recently concluded in the case ‘Conference of European Churches (CEC) v. the Netherlands’ that the current Dutch social welfare system that refuses shelter to undocumented migrants violates their rights, and does not conform with Article 13.4 (the right to social and medical assistance) and Article 31.2 (the right to housing) of the European Social Charter. CEC emphasized that “no exception to the right to emergency assistance should be allowed in situations where human dignity or life is at stake”. The government, on the other hand, argued that migrants have a choice to leave and allowing access to housing and health care would discourage them from returning voluntarily. The European Committee of Social Rights concluded that the Netherlands must provide adequate shelter to undocumented migrants, regardless of whether they have been requested to leave the country.

For more information on our campaign and public consultation on the Facilitation Directive, please click here.