'Never face a migrant in your household': The website which shows how low our debate on immigration has sunk

Spying on ourselves: Could the Immigration Act turn landlords and doctors into immigration officers?
Spying on ourselves: Could the Immigration Act turn landlords and doctors into immigration officers?
Ian Dunt By

It's a small, tucked-away website offering advice for landlords, but it tells us volumes about what is happening to our debate on immigration.

On Thursday, a post was published on Property Forum, part of the Tenant Referencing website, advising landlords on how to make sure "migrants" would never end up in their homes. The headline reads:

"Migrants force their way into UK-bound lorries in broad daylight, will it be your home next?" 

Then underneath:

"Well most definitely not if you are a member of tenant referencing UK! With our immigration document checks you will never have to face a migrant in your household or the £3,000 fine that also comes along with it."

Just a couple of weeks after the Katie Hopkins Sun piece which fantasised about gunning down the boats carrying migrant "cockroaches", notice again the use of World War Two era rhetoric. The line asking if it will be "your home next" sounds like wartime propaganda, of the type used against the Jews or Communists. "Never have to face a migrant in your household" has that same sense of an enemy within, hiding among the populace, trying to ingratiate itself into your home. Even the text of the post, which mentions the way migrants "used to try and sneak aboard lorries bound for the UK using the cover of darkness" but now are filmed "clambering onto trucks about to cross the English Channel in broad daylight" has that sense of them being cunning villains.

The post also shows how words for various types of travellers to the UK are being smudged into the catch-all 'migrant'. The distinction between asylum seekers and immigrants has been hopelessly blurred in the debate over the boat tragedies. Now undocumented migrants and those with legal status are also blurred, with the de-facto implication that none are really legitimate. For a long time 'illegal immigrant' seemed the most dangerous term, a weapon of dehumanisation and othering. Now the 'illegal' is becoming increasingly unnecessary. The term migrant itself is becoming an insult.

Most worrying of all, the post also demonstrates the toxic consequences of the Tories' Immigration Act, which applied a legal requirement on landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. As was warned at the time, this threatens to turn landlords into agents of the state, snooping on the people they have a potential commercial relationship with. Call it hyperbole, but this is how the police state starts. Security checks are injected into the day-to-day running of society and citizens are told to internalise them or face a penalty.

This is part of a trend. University tutors are asked to spy on their students to discover potential terrorists. Doctors and landlords are asked to spy on those coming to them for potential undocumented migrants. The British public is being asked to turn into its own Big Brother, amid a wave of paranoia and suspicion.

If this could be limited just to those who really are terrorists and undocumented immigrants, it would be bad enough. After all, no prize is worth the collapse of a civilised society into self-policed authoritarianism. But it will not be. It will affect those who do not even fall into these categories. Those with odd, extreme or unfashionable ideas will be shopped to the police. The loners and the misfits will be singled out. The dark-skinned family will have their papers checked more thoroughly than the white family. It is a charter for prejudice, abuse of process and witch-hunts.

Even in these early days, just as the Immigration Act requirements kick in, we can see the effect. 'Never face a migrant in your household' is not just a horrible memory of the past. It is a vision of the future.


Load in comments
Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.

Newsletter update