On the day that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) announced that net migration in the last year had increased by 50% to 318,000, the Prime Minister has set out a series of measures aimed at controlling immigration and, in particular, targeting illegal immigration and employment.
Setting aside the fact that, by its very nature, illegal migration is not accurately reflected in official figures, the measures announced today represent the new Conservative government’s unfettered policy, Theresa May having said earlier today that she had been “held back” in her plans for immigration control by the Liberal Democrats during the previous coalition government.
So what has been promised? The new Immigration Bill, to be set out in next week’s Queen’s speech, will include:-
1. New powers for councils to crackdown on unscrupulous landlords and evict illegal workers/migrants more quickly. At present, the requirement for private landlords to check the immigration permission of tenants or face a fine, extends only to a pilot area in the west midlands.
2. Banks will be required to check bank accounts against a database of people in the UK illegally, yet a further instance of the Home Office outsourcing immigration control by placing the burden on the private sector.
3. Extending the “deport first appeal later” measures to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews. From the first introduction of the Immigration Bill 2014 to Parliament, the government’s rhetoric has been aimed at foreign criminals frustrating the legal system (read previous news article here). What has been enacted and what is proposed further is nothing short of throwing the baby out with the bath water. In targeting a very small percentage of the 77,000 appeals that were related to deportation of criminals, the government has withdrawn the rights of appeal in almost all immigration decisions. The Home Office stated that it would improve the quality of its first tier decision making. This correspondent has seen similar promises made in the past yet 48% of appeals against negative Home Office decisions succeed! If your spouse is refused a visa to stay in the UK, you will no longer enjoy an in-country right of appeal before an independent tribunal. Remember: “Deport first, appeal later”. This is likely to lead to untold anguish for thousands of law abiding families. With the stakes so high, good quality immigration advice will be essential.
4. Creation of a new offence of illegal working meaning illegal immigrants and overstayors cannot benefit from employment. Police will be given the power to seize wages as the proceeds of crime. Most migrants working illegally in the UK are under the radar and work for pitiful wages. It is difficult to foresee how this measure can be enacted in practice.
5. It will become an offence for businesses and recruitment agencies to recruit abroad without first advertising in the UK. This only really impacts on those businesses who source their workforce from within the EEA. Any employer that recruits from outside the EEA is already subject to these provisions under what is known as the “resident labour market test”.
6. A new labour market enforcement agency will be created to crack down on the worst cases of labour market exploitation.
7. Satellite tracking tags will be introduced for foreign criminals awaiting deportation.
We believe the measures are unlikely to have the impact on illegal immigration to the UK that the government hopes. They will simply marginalise further an already exploited people.
The government’s other aim of renegotiating rights of access to the UK’s welfare state for new EEA migrants, extending the qualifying residence period to 4 years, could have an impact on net migration figures but it will be a case of wait and see - Department for Work and Pensions figures for 2014 showed that only 2.5% (131,000 of the 5 million) claimants of welfare benefits were migrants from the European Union. The figures do not distinguish by the length of residence prior to a claim for public funds.
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