‘Britain has reached a crisis point’, as charted in Sonita Gale’s Hostile documentary on immigration at City Screen

The poster for Sonita Gale’s documentary Hostile, showing at City Screen, York, this evening

TICKETS are selling fast for this evening’s 5.55pm screening of Hostile, Sonita Gale’s documentary focusing on the UK’s complicated relationship with its migrant communities. A question-and-answer session with the director will follow.

Told through the stories of four participants from Black and Asian backgrounds, the feature-length film reveals the impact of the evolving “hostile environment”.

“This is the term used by the British government in 2012 to illustrate the atmosphere they wanted to create for migrants, with the intention of provoking them to leave of their own accord,” says Sonita.

Hostile explores how the lives of international students, members of the Windrush generation and ‘Highly-Skilled Migrants’ have been affected.

The stakes are high. An NHS IT engineer has spent tens of thousands of pounds on visa applications and is still waiting for settled status. A member of the Windrush generation has not recovered from detainment due to a lack of paperwork, in what came to be known as the Windrush Scandal. International students, now destitute, face deportation, and community organisers are struggling to feed these vulnerable communities without government support.

Archival footage is used by Gale to depict the history of the British Empire as well as charting the UK’s immigration policies over recent years to illuminate how we arrived at the situation we are in today.

“After decades of hostile immigration policies, Britain has reached a crisis point,” says Sonita. “With Brexit, the Points Based Immigration System and the Nationality and Borders Bill taking effect, the film asks: once the ‘hostile environment’ has targeted all migrants, who will it extend to next?”

What is the Hostile Environment?

“The UK Home Office’s hostile environment policy is a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make staying in the United Kingdom as difficult as possible for people without leave to remain, in the hope that they may ‘voluntarily leave’,” says Sonita. “The term was coined in 2012 by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May.

“Since 2010, the Government has launched a wave of attacks on the human rights of undocumented people – meaning people who can’t prove they have a right to live in the UK.

“The idea is to make life in the UK as unbearable as possible for migrants by blocking access to public services and pushing them into extreme poverty. Under the hostile environment, employers, landlords, NHS staff and other public servants have to check your immigration status before offering people a job, housing, healthcare or other support.”

Tickets for Hostile are on sale at: picturehouses.com/cinema/city-screen-picturehouse. CharlesHutchPress editor Charles Hutchinson will host the Q&A.