The Immigration Bill has now received royal assent and has become the Immigration Act 2016. It represents the Government’s efforts to make daily life in the UK impossible for illegal entrants and overstayors whilst heavily penalising those who, intentionally or otherwise, assist illegals through provision of accommodation or employment.
A summary of the main provisions is set out beneath the commentary.
Speaking about the new Act, Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire said:
“The message is clear - if you are here illegally, you shouldn’t be entitled to receive the everyday benefits and services available to hard-working UK families and people who have come to this country legitimately to contribute.
“Whether it is working, renting a flat, having a bank account or driving a car, the new immigration act will help us to take tougher action than ever before on those who flout the law.
“It will deter illegal migrants from trying to reach the UK by preventing them from accessing benefits or services in this country and make it easier for us to remove those with no right to be here.”
Whilst the Act is aimed at unlawful migration, the powers given to Immigration Officers and the police are draconian and an assault on fundamental civil liberties unworthy of the world’s oldest parliament. The power to enter an individual’s property without a warrant, arrest and seize property based only on a “reasonable belief” would surely not have found its way into the statue books were it not for the fact that there are no votes in defending migrants’ rights. We do not contest that steps can and should be taken to make illegal migration unattractive, it is just the particular path the Government has taken which is objectionable. We can only hope that the police and immigration authorities use their powers wisely and not as a ruse to circumvent normal investigative procedures.
The Immigration Act 2014 removed most rights of appeal. The Immigration Act 2016 is the latest obstacle to justice for migrants and their families. If your foreign national spouse’s application to stay in the UK is refused, he or she will be expected to leave the UK and appeal from their home country. Sounds preposterous? We agree. This Act risks families being torn apart whilst the appeal process drags on (with out-of-country appeals taking 12-18 months to come before the courts in the UK at the moment), not to mention the difficulties an individual will have in arguing their appeal from a different country.
The new provisions are set out below.
In-country appeal rights eroded
* The Act extends “Deport First / Appeal Later” to all cases where a person has made a human rights claim which is refused, provided that requiring the appeal to be brought from overseas will not cause serious irreversible harm or otherwise breach human rights.
Resident Labour Market and penalties for illegal working
* A new Immigration Skills Charge (ISC), aka the “apprenticeship levy”, is introduced for licensed sponsors to try and reduce reliance on skilled workers from outside the Resident Labour Market. The levy of £1000 pa will be paid on issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship under Tier 2 General and Tier 2 ICT routes (with the exception of Tier 2 ICT Graduate Trainee and Skills Transfer routes). The funds raised are to be used to train the UK’s own ‘human capital’.
* A new offence of illegal working has been created with a maximum sentence of 51 weeks imprisonment and/or a fine in England & Wales, (6 months imprisonment and/or a fine in Scotland & Northern Ireland).
* The maximum sentence for employing an illegal worker is increased from 2 to 5 years imprisonment.
* Immigration Officers are given the power to arrest without warrant any person they have reasonable grounds to suspect is employing illegal workers. Renting, driving and enforcement (or the slippery slope for a country’s civil liberties)
* New powers to prosecute rogue landlords and agents who repeatedly fail to carry out right to rent checks or who otherwise fail to take steps to remove illegal migrants from their property.
* New offence of driving whilst in the UK unlawfully.
* Immigration Officers given the power to enter your property to seize your car and driving licence if it is suspected you are in the UK unlawfully.
* Immigration Officers will have new powers to search individuals and properties and seize identity documents if they suspect an individual to be in the UK without permission.
* New measures aimed at making it harder for illegal migrants to access bank accounts in the UK.
* Public employees in customer-facing roles will be obliged to speak good English.
Detention and foreign criminals
* Introduces an automatic bail hearing after 4 months for those held in detention.
* Allows for the electronic tagging of all foreign national offenders on immigration bail.
* Imposes a maximum time limit of 72 hours for the detention of pregnant women (subject to extension by the Immigration Minister).
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