The new Immigration Bill was announced in the Queen’s speech on 27 May 2015 and implements a number of policies in the Conservative Party Manifesto and further proposals in the Prime Minister’s key immigration speech immediately after the general election.
The 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…”
The new bill lays out the expansion of powers to a large number of immigration officials and makes it easier to remove people. It introduces new sanctions on illegal workers and rogue employers. It provides better co ordination of regulators that enforce worker’s rights. It will prevent illegal immigrants in the UK from accessing housing, driving licences and bank accounts.
There is a a second reading of the bill scheduled for the 13th of October where it will be debated in the House of Commons. Here is a summary of some of the ways that it will affect people living in the UK without lawful Immigration Status.
Remove First Appeal Later
The ‘deport first, appeal later’ provision will be extended to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews. This means not only non-human rights cases, but human rights cases as well. This new proviison will affect many people who have established families in the UK and have children in this country. Presently human rights appeals can be conducted within the UK . These new proposals will affect many people with strong human rights cases. Some of the type of cases that will be affected are for people who have one spouse who is settled in the UK or a British National and is married to a non British National. If a person does not meet the maintenance requirement or english language requirement for example they could appeal from within the UK. The effect of these new provisions will mean that people will only be able to appeal once they have been removed from the UK .
The bill forces banks to check current accounts against migrant databases. Banks will have to notify the Home Office if checks confirm the account holder no longer has permission to remain in the UK. This could lead to the freezing or closure of accounts. This is very concerning for people who may not be able to produce evidence of their leave to remain due to refusals on a technicality or through no fault of their own. It will also affect people who may have had leave to remain at some point and saved up their funds for a rainy day. It leaves vulnerable migrants at the mercy of overzealous workers in banks who will no understanding of how the Immigration System works.
Residency and Renting
The immigration bill introduces a criminal charge of imprisonment for up to five years and a fine for landlords letting out property to a migrant without a ‘right to rent’. This policy can sometimes encourage discrimination for those with foreign sounding names or appearance. It also leaves landlords vulnerable to facing criminal charges and imprisonment.
Under the bill, it will be a criminal offence to ‘drive whilst an illegal immigrant’. This includes a criminal sentence of up to 51 weeks and/or a fine. When investigating illegal migration, police are able to seize driving licences. It therefore means that whilst a person is an illegal immigrant they are caught driving they face imprisonment. Ethnic Minorities and people who look foreign are therefore at risk of more stop and searches from the police. The government’s crackdown will affect immigrants who are here lawfully as they will be subjeceted to additional checks and this law will promote discrimination and stereotyping of all foreign looking people.
Illegal Workers and Employment
Immigration officials can close down businesses, seize earnings and have right to enter and search properties and seize them too. The focus would be on small businesses such as the ability to close off-licences and takeaways. These small businesses and employers are often unable to keep abreast of changes to complex immigration rules and processes. If found to be employing illegal migrants, employers can receive a maximum criminal penalty which will be changed from two to five years. Illegal migrants could get a sentence of up to 51 weeks including a fine.
The Immigration Bill of 2015 will adversley affect migrants and sadly will cause many families to go underground. This Bill does not distinguish and will cause misery and suffering to migrants who have lived in this country for many years. The aim of the government is to make life so difficult that people will be forced to return voluntarily to their countries of origin. Migrants that we come across in our area of work will try to stay in the UK by any means necessary because the hardship they face in their countries or origin is nothing compared to the laws being introduced by the government.
These measures are unlikely to achieve their stated aims of reducing to irregular migration and encouraging irregular migrants to leave the UK. Instead, they will impact on those legally residing in the UK, including temporary migrants, BME groups and many British citizens, who will find it more difficult to live in the UK in a climate of hostility.
A ‘tough’ approach to irregular migration without evidence or any understanding of facts will only succeed in increasing the fear and hostility felt by those who appear ‘different’. Furthermore, the measures contain a worrying extension of powers which will reduce the rights of all citizens, including powers to arrest and detain extended to immigration officials.