Interesting piece on the background to the "hostile environment" policy here
, which suggests that, as with Brexit, David Cameron's short-sighted thinking was largely to blame.
Is the prime minister a racist? It’s a provocative question that has been asked repeatedly since Home Office rhetoric on illegal immigration was ratcheted up around 2012. Her 2016 party conference speech, containing its infamous dismissal of ‘citizens of nowhere’, raised the question once more. Lord Kerslake, head of the civil service between 2012 and 2014, has said that some inside the government saw May’s immigration policies as ‘almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany’. But reducing the current situation to the politics or prejudices of an individual doesn’t really explain how Britain descended to the point where black citizens were being stripped of their dignity and livelihoods, and threatened with being slung out of the country. This isn’t just a matter of something rotten in the Home Office, as Amber Rudd had the nerve to suggest. That we have ended up in this mess suggests that senior politicians have gradually lost all sense of proportion on the matter. Someone must have been telling lies about immigration.
The tabloid media are culpable, with their talk of ‘floods’ and ‘swarms’, happily echoed by Nigel Farage. But the most significant precursor to the ‘hostile environment’ was David Cameron’s ill-fated pledge of 2010 to reduce net migration (the number entering the UK minus the number leaving) to less than 100,000 a year, at a time when the figure was more than 250,000. New Labour had treated immigration merely as a labour market issue, without much political significance. Cameron’s policy was a desperate bid to hang on to voters who might drift towards Ukip, but it was wildly undeliverable. The government soon introduced a cap on the number of skilled non-EU migrants that could enter the country, which was broken month after month.