Belfast Telegraph

DUP MP among group using immigration enforcement hotline

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A DUP MP or their staff was among a group of 68 representatives to use an immigration enforcement hotline, it has been revealed.

The figure has emerged amid concerns about vulnerable constituents potentially being deterred from contacting their representative.

In response to a written question from Labour MP David Lammy, the Home Office disclosed in 2017 there had been 68 incidents of MPs or their staff making referrals to the immigration enforcement hotline, with 34 of these coming from Conservative members, 32 coming 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 has not responded 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 occassions.

A coalition of 15 charities have presented 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, and neither have a number of Labour MPs who have clarified their reasons for refraining.

The groups 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.

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