14th October 2015
An Immigration Bill proposed by the government, which looks to tackle illegal immigration has progressed to its next stage after being debated in parliament.
The aim of the bill is to reduce net migration by tackling the problem of people choosing to overstay in the UK.
Hampshire immigration expert, Simon Kenny of Moore Blatch says that the issue of overstaying is not always a straightforward one and that sweeping powers to deport migrants and asylum seekers before they have a chance to appeal could prevent people exercising their legitimate rights.
Simon comments: “There are some people, who obviously do decide to stay in the UK without permission. In certain circumstances, this may be to avoid returning somewhere they think is not safe or for more personal reasons; studies, a relationship, career or simply to look after family members.
“But for others, they may end up staying without permission accidentally; having an immigration application rejected for an entirely technical reason, which can be deemed to be overstaying. Others have no idea they’re doing anything wrong. Those who came to the UK as children, many years ago, may discover for the first time as adults that they do not have the correct permission to stay and are also considered to be overstaying under immigration rules.
“The phrase “illegal immigrant” suggests a person trying to cheat the system in the UK, but in my experience this can be a blanket term which does not always provide the whole story.”
The new bill aims to make circumstances more difficult for people that overstay regardless of their individual circumstances, but it is essential that Hampshire employers and businesses are aware of the potential new obligations.
Simon summarises below some of the recommendations under the new bill:
The plans propose a new criminal offence of working in the UK without permission, which would carry a penalty of six months imprisonment and also provide a new power to the police to confiscate employees’ wages as the proceeds of crime.
A Right to Rent scheme will require landlords to carry out checks on prospective tenants, such as seeing their passport or visa, to ascertain their immigration status. Failing to do so would be a criminal offence leading to a fine or a jail sentence. Landlords would also be able to summarily evict tenants without the right immigration status.
There would be a new obligation on Banks and Building Societies to check the ongoing immigration status of account holders, notifying the Home Office if any do not have leave to remain.
A new offence is also to be proposed of driving in the UK without having immigration permission to live here. Immigration officers would be given wide ranging powers to enter homes, without a warrant, to seize the driving licences of anyone they believe may have committed this offence.
Businesses and recruitment agencies will be prevented from hiring from abroad without first advertising in the UK and will face potential offences if found to be in breach.
Public authorities will be subject to a new duty to ensure that public sector workers in public-facing roles can speak fluent English.
Simon concludes: “There are many who believe that the new bill may do more harm than good, with people still choosing to overstay but increasingly not coming to the attention of the authorities. There is a danger that people will choose to work for cash without paying tax, rent accommodation without statutory protection, drive without licences and insurance and suffer illness which may lead to public health concerns, if people choose to go without treatment.”