May: Living in UK to get tougher for illegal immigrants


Home Secretary Theresa May said the public is asking why illegal immigrants can stay in the UK ''so easily''

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Illegal immigrants will find it harder to set up home in the UK under planned laws, says Home Secretary Theresa May.

The Immigration Bill would force private landlords to quiz tenants about their immigration status and restrict access to bank accounts for people in the country without permission.

It also aims to streamline the appeals process in immigration cases.

Labour said the bill did nothing about bigger problems like the "shambolic" state of UK border controls.

The bill, which is expected to become law in spring 2014, subject to approval by MPs, will include measures to allow the UK to "deport foreign criminals first and hear their appeal later" when there is "no risk of serious irreversible harm".

BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani says this could lead to an increase in air fare costs for the Home Office, if it has to fly back migrants who are successful in their appeal.

A requirement is also included for temporary migrants, such as overseas students, to make a contribution to the National Health Service to prevent so-called "health tourism".

Other new measures in the bill include:

  • New powers to check driving licence applicants' immigration status
  • Cut the number of deportation decisions that can be appealed against from 17 to four
  • Restrict the ability of immigration detainees to apply repeatedly for bail if they have previously been refused it
  • Make it easier for the Home Office to recover unpaid civil penalties
  • Clamp down on people who try to gain an immigration advantage by entering into a "sham" marriage or civil partnership
  • Require banks to check against a database of known immigration offenders before opening bank accounts

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: "The Immigration Bill will stop migrants using public services to which they are not entitled, reduce the pull factors which encourage people to come to the UK and make it easier to remove people who should not be here.

When you average them out, there's been one immigration bill roughly every two years since 1997 and the system apparently still needs fixing.

Each bill has seen a minister take legislation to Parliament and tell MPs that this is the one that will make the system firmer, faster and fairer - or words to that effect.

So what makes this latest attempt any different?

This bill is almost entirely about enforcement: it focuses on people the government wants to control or keep out.

Critics say much of it may prove challenging to implement: landlords will need to become experts in forged passports, there will be new court battles over the appeals process and, undoubtedly, complaints of poor and unfair decisions will remain.

The ultimate goal is increased public confidence in the system. Whatever measures are in this bill, that remains the most challenging aim of them all.

"We will continue to welcome the brightest and best migrants who want to contribute to our economy and society and play by the rules. But the law must be on the side of people who respect it, not those who break it."

Mrs May said the measures were about "making it harder for people who are here illegally to stay here".

She said it was a "point of principle" that people who used public services should be expected to contribute to them, but she would not comment on the cost to the country of "health tourism".

She denied claims that forcing private landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants would be unworkable, saying they would just be "required to ask some simple questions" in the same way that employers have to do when interviewing workers.

But an organisation representing private and public sector landlords said the measures would "make it much harder for non-British people to access housing even when they have a legal right to live in the UK".

Gavin Smart, director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: "Checking immigration status is complicated so landlords may shy away from letting to anyone who appears not to be British."

Don Flynn, director of Migrants' Rights Network, criticised moves to restrict access to the NHS, saying: "There are very small numbers of migrants who come here with pre-existing health conditions and find themselves registering with the health service.

"I simply do not believe there is any significant evidence that something like the NHS is a pull factor."

'Increasingly shambolic'

The British Medical Association (BMA) is also critical of the plans.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, told BBC Radio 5live there is already a system in place for hospitals to recover the cost of treating patients who are ineligible for NHS care.

"Clearly that could be improved, but introducing a system for general practice could be a bureaucratic nightmare," he said.

"The reality is people don't come to the UK to use the NHS, they're more likely to come to work in the NHS."

Labour said there was nothing in the bill to tackle problems at the UK's "increasingly shambolic" border controls or to deal with "long delays in getting electronic checks in place, or the UKBA (UK Border Agency) bureaucratic failings that have prevented foreign criminals being deported".

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "It doesn't seem to address some of the serious issues around border control and some of the problems about exploitation of immigration in the labour market, particularly low-skill immigration, which has caused concerns about jobs and wages."

Campaign group the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants welcomed what it claimed was a "climb down" by the Home Office, which had not included in the bill proposals to introduce immigration checks by GPs.

It said the new proposals would deter students from wanting to study in the UK but would have "no impact whatsoever on 'illegal' immigration - the declared intention of this bill".

UKIP said "pressganging landlords, doctors and private citizens under the threat of sanctions to carry out the work of border agencies is simply wrong" and the government needed to treat the cause of immigration problems rather than the symptoms.

And Simon Walker, of the Institute of Directors, warned that some of the government's rhetoric was starting to make the UK "look unwelcoming and hostile to the people on whom our export markets depend".

The Conservatives say they want to reduce net migration from non-EU countries - the difference between the number of people emigrating and arriving in the UK - to less than 100,000 a year.

But the latest Office for National Statistics figures show net migration rose to 176,000 in the year ending December 2012 - up from 153,000 people in the year to September 2012 - appearing to buck the recent downward trend.

There are no official estimates of the number of illegal immigrants in the UK. A 2009 study by the London School of Economics produced an estimate of 618,000 but the Migration Watch pressure group said this under-estimated the number of people who had overstayed their visas and the true figure was more like 1.1 million.


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  • Comment number 1174.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1173.

    I was referring to EU migration as well. However that's the real issue. It's not being addressed. I can't even get into Switzerland with-out a visa, I'm from the U.K, this is the point I'm making. That happens to be the under lying issue and the actual issue. What they are doing is not enough. We'll have to leave the EU. An Only UKIP will do that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    How is this going to work? Doctors will have to train to check for fake passports and documentation? Nurses will have to ring up the local police force if they find someone has used the service of which they are not entitled to? This lot cannot collect the Millions in fines for companies who employed illegals nor does it check on a third of all people who enter. I have no faith in the mainstream.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    There is only one way to ensure that mass immigration is stopped and that is to vote UKIP in the 2014 Euro elections and the 2015 General Election.

    Pro EU Cameron delaying a referendum until 2017 is fiddling while the UK burns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    1150. concerned
    1127. magictricks
    They should be stopping migration from everywhere. Have a points system like Switzerland. They are not addressing the real issue. vote them out!
    Are you aware that Switzerland has almost 25% immigration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    #1147 : I do tend to agree that UK public aren't inherently lefty.
    Yet in the eras which you may regard with affection, we did try to create a "land fit for heroes" and we did elect a Govt that carried out wide scale nationalisation. Both fairly lefty ideals, I'd say.
    I'd argue it was only with the "me first" Toryism of the 80s brought intolerance rose. Which kind of UK do you want to return to?

  • Comment number 1168.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1167.

    I am staggered that illegal immigrants have been able to obtain driving licences.

    What the hell are all these costly civil servants doing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1166.

    What about those illegals who 'doss' in the rented homes of legal immigrants? Will their landlords be held responsible?
    I'm in favour of this new system in principle, but genuine tenants in my neighbour's house regularly play host to a number of their country folk - and who's to know if their 'visitors' are legal or illegal! The tenants were placed by an agent in the absence of the landlord.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1165.

    The human rights movement can pretty much argue against anything for anyone, that doesn't make it right. A counter group should be started called the common sense group, where a problem could be looked at and solutions found. Illegal immigrants need to be stopped but so too do the legitimate ones who send money home, if they earn money here it should be spent here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1164.

    And not before time. Just got back from cuba and loved the Cuban culture. Not a watered down integrated respect every illegal immigrants culture.
    Landed at Manchester airport and first sign I saw when showing my passport was "enrol at this university to learn English as a 2nd language".
    You really cannot make it up.

  • Comment number 1163.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1162.

    Enoch Powell must be turning in his grave - he foresaw this problem many years ago and nobody listened. Too late to close the gate now, forget the horse, the whole damned herd are here. To stay. Yet another example of spectacular governmental incompetence and mismanagement that drives those of us who actually would pass the cricket test insane (courtesy of Norman Tebbit).

  • Comment number 1161.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 1160.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1159.

    BEAMMEUP@1145 would like to comment but I'm asleep, night night, oh ARZANNI just realised what your web name rhymed with, so apt, cheery bye, oh and must not forget DUNGEONSON enjoy the night at the club with chaps wont you old boy and do continue not to give a stuff about us working class oiks, ah all better now,

  • rate this

    Comment number 1158.

    I agree with proper controls on immigration but if we all open our eyes we can see that Governments don't build houses but ensure that prices remain high and supply low. Governments starves the NHS of cash and resources. Governments subsidise employers through HB to ensure that wages are kept low and rents high. Immigration control will not be the panacea to any of these problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1157.

    Being British means you are English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh. To be one of those you have to be white as those are racial/ethnic identities. I cannot be Chinese or Indian even if in theory I could hold that passport.

    1147. John Smith V - I notice you are not allowed to equate our ethnic identities to race, which are intimately related.

  • Comment number 1156.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1155.

    Whats up people? You all sat there as did our parents and did nothing about immigration. As did governments of both parties. It's too late now, posting on this non story changes nothing. Get over it. Are we going to start pinning stars on people and rounding them up and putting them on trains. These are human beings. It's the political class that needs dealing with.


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