In the UK, the hostile environment immigration policy impacts schools and children’s wellbeing

published 29 August 2019 updated 29 August 2019

Citizens UK, a national community organising group, recently released a report investigating how the hostile environment policy is impacting upon the everyday lives of schools, families and children without citizenship living in the UK.

The hostile environment immigration policy was first introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May in 2012, aiming to make lives of people without the “right documentation” unbearable until they decided to leave the UK. This was done by fining landlords renting out their properties out to undocumented migrants, asking medical personnel to report migrants without documents to the Home Office and threatening employers who hired migrants without documents with fines. The hostile environment policy, however, does not just impact undocumented migrants living in the UK, but all migrants, as well as many individuals and families, particularly those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, who have lived in the UK for their entire lives.

Since January 2019, undergraduate students from the UCL Institute of Education have been working with Citizens UK, along with staff and student in six primary and secondary schools and sixth form colleges across London to conduct an action research project on the impact of the hostile environment on these schools, their students, parents and staff. Action research combines education (developing workshops to learn together about the hostile environment policy), research (listening to the experiences and opinions of children, teachers and parents), and action (collectively developing ideas to address the harmful impact of the hostile environment policy).

As highlighted in this preliminary report, the research finds that the hostile environment is having a significant and negative impact in schools, not just for children and families without citizenship, but for teachers and school leadership teams as well. This policy undermines the right of all children to an equal, high quality education in schools across the UK.

Download the action research preliminary report “ Forgotten People. How the hostile environment impacts schools and children’s wellbeing”.