After a rise in anti-Semitic hate incidents in the UK, the government is proposing to deport UK visa holders who act in spreading anti-Semitic rhetoric.
UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has declared that visitors to the United Kingdom who engage in anti-Semitism, may face the revocation of their visas: even if their actions "fall below the criminal standard."
In a letter by Jenrick to police chief constables across England and Wales he wrote, “The guarantee that individuals are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression must be coupled with the certainty that there will be zero-tolerance for antisemitism.”
He then followed this with, “The opportunities that a UK visa affords an individual is a special privilege. The Home office will not hesitate to enforce the law and revoke the visas.”
This comes as protests have erupted across Europe, and the UK, in the wake of Israel’s continued bombing of Gaza in response to attacks made by the terrorist organisation Hamas on 7 October.
“We will not tolerate this hatred”
Politicians across Westminster have called for similar action against visa holders who are deemed to be inciting hate with the country.
Conservative MP Sajid Javid asked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the House of Commons in a session of Prime Ministers Questions, “May I ask him to consider urgently an immediate and specific policy of revoking the visas of any foreign national that commits an act of antisemitism or any other hate crime?”
Prime Minister Sunak agreed with Javid, replying, “Under our existing immigration rules we do have the power to cancel a person’s presence in the UK if it is not conducive to the public good. We will not tolerate this hatred, not in our country, not in this century.”
Jenrick refrained from discussing specific cases of visa holders under review, citing the importance of following the proper legal processes. However, he did point out instances where individuals have been seen "glorifying" acts of terror and "praising Hamas."
The immigration minister said that individuals found to be inciting racial hatred and violence while on asylum or visa status would be removed. He reiterated that those who spread hate and division in the UK, whether they are asylum seekers or visa holders, have no right to remain in the country.
Anti-Semitic incidents on the rise since 7 October
The initiative to curb antisemitism comes in the wake of several instances where individuals were found to be promoting terrorism and expressing deeply antisemitic sentiments, particularly amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Four days following Hamas’s attack on 7 October, the Community Security Trust (CST) reported 89 incidents of anti-Jewish hate, which included damage to property and assaults. This is a 324% increase compared with the same four days a year before in 2022.
Police have also reported an increase in the number of Islamophobic incidents within London over the same period. Tell MAMA, an organisation measuring anti-muslim attacks in the UK, received 400 anti-Muslim cases between 7 October and 24 October.
Before a pro-Palestinian protest in London on October 14th, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, Laurence Taylor, said “People do not have the right to incite violence or hatred. The law is clear that support for proscribed organisations is illegal. Anyone with a flag in support of Hamas or any other proscribed terrorist organisation will be arrested.”
Although it was made clear that support for the Palestinian people more broadly, including flying the Palestinian flag, does not, alone, constitute a criminal offence.
The process of revoking visas and expelling foreign nationals involved in hate and division has already been initiated, with Jenrick confirming that steps have been taken in a limited number of cases. He has also reached out to all chief constables across England and Wales, urging them to report relevant cases to the Home Office for further consideration.