Following on from the Immigration Act 2014, the Home Office published a new proposed Immigration Bill earlier this month, which will see further measures targeted at irregular migrants living in the UK. The Bill is split into eight parts which will be outlined below.
Labour market and illegal working
With the purpose of combating exploitation practices in the workplace, in this part the Bill seeks to criminalise all earnings obtained by irregular migrants and create tougher sanctions on businesses that hire irregular migrants with possible threat of closure to their establishments. In addition workers could face up to 5 years in prison if caught, which sees an increase from the existing 2 years imprisonment already enforced.
Access to services
Irregular migrants could also face restricted access to services provided, including criminalisation of driving in the UK, a ban on obtaining UK driving licenses and prevention from opening a bank account without official proof of the right to live in the UK. Other services to see a crackdown is the housing market, as landlords and building societies will face increased checks by immigration enforcers to ensure they are complying with the law. This means that in regards to the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme that has been rolled out nationwide under the Immigration Act 2014, measures under the 2015/2016 Bill will mean landlords will be forced to evict irregular migrants from their tenancies. Under the previous immigration act, we already saw migrants face certain restrictions in their access to the NHS, particularly international students who are now required to pay a surcharge fee.
To allow for the restrictions to be imposed on irregular migrants regarding access to services and participating in the labour market, the 2015/2016 Bill will increase the powers given to immigration officers, who will be able to arrest anyone on suspicion of being irregular. London based NGO, Migreat believe the Bill encourages discriminatory practices to those with foreign sounding names. They also critique the Bill for failing to register the practicalities of enforcing many of the policies.
Similarly, to allow immigration officers, border control and the Home Office to drive forward the rhetoric of criminalising, irregular migrants will be deported from the UK first, before they can appeal.
Support of certain categories of migrant
Furthermore, the Bill will remove support to detained asylum seekers who are to be deported. This involves categorising irregular migrants to measure who requires the most help, but poses a risk by infringing on the rights for asylum seekers and refugees.
Border security will also see tougher rules applied on arrivals into the UK. Airlines and airports will be required to present all incoming passengers to border control for assessment.
Language requirements for public sector workers
In public sector, it will become mandatory for public sector workers to speak fluent English if they are in positions where they have to engage with the public.
Fees and charges
Finally, the Bill will focus on reducing the UK’s reliance on migrant workers by charging employers who show preferential habit for employing skilled migrants. This will essentially be a tax on hiring migrant workers and could encourage discriminatory practices against citizens who do not appear British to escape the charge.
For James Brokenshire, the Minister for Immigration, “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.”
The overall aim of the proposed Bill is to prevent irregular migrants from accessing services that contribute to living in the UK, whilst making employers and landlord’s de-jure immigration officers.
However, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) have raised their concerns about the Bill being full of “draconian laws” which could “have a disproportionately negative impact on British citizens, black and minority ethnic (BME) individuals and those living legally in the UK”.
A review of the Bill by the JCWI also highlighted that often undocumented and irregular migrants are victims of trafficking and therefore should be encouraged to come forward about their situation rather that criminalising them for the actions of exploitative employers.
A second reading of the Bill will take place on October 13th where the contents of the Bill’s each 8 parts will be discussed further.
For more on the Bill follow the links provided:
Home Office Immigration Bill: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/immigration-bill-2015-16
Home Office Press Release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-measures-will-make-it-tougher-than-ever-before-to-live-illegally-in-the-uk