UK Politics

David Cameron urges people to report illegal immigrants

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Media captionDavid Cameron: "I want everyone in the country to help with this"

UK Prime Minister David Cameron says he "wants everyone in the country" to help "reclaim our borders" by reporting suspected illegal immigrants.

In a speech setting out measures to tighten immigration rules, Mr Cameron said people should report suspicions to Crimestoppers and the UK Border Agency.

He also outlined plans to tackle forced and bogus marriages and for new rules for those wanting to settle in the UK.

"Together we will reclaim our borders and send illegal immigrants home."

Mr Cameron said: "If we take the steps set out today and deal with all the different avenues of migration, legal and illegal, then levels of immigration can return to where they were in the 1980s and 90s... a time when immigration was not a front rank political issue."

In his speech, the PM also said the government was to consult on making it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to force a person to marry against their will.

'Little more than slavery'

Earlier this year the Home Office rejected the idea amid fears victims might be put off coming forward.

Mr Cameron announced plans to make it a criminal offence to breach orders imposed by the courts to prevent forced marriages taking place.

This already happens in Scotland.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders were introduced in 2008 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland under the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007.

A potential victim, friend or police can apply for an order aimed at protecting an individual through the courts and anyone found to have breached one can be jailed for up to two years for contempt of court, although this is classed as a civil offence.

The prime minister wants that changed, as well as a re-examination of proposals to create a specific criminal offence covering the act of trying to force someone into marriage.

In his speech, Mr Cameron said: "Forced marriage is little more than slavery.

"To force someone into marriage is completely wrong and I strongly believe this is a problem we should not shy away from addressing because of some cultural concerns."

Last year, a unit set up to tackle the problem dealt with 1,700 cases, but many more are thought to have gone unreported.

Minimum income

The government says it is a breach of human rights to force someone to marry against their will for family advantage or to protect the perceived notion of a family's honour.

However, in July the Home Office dismissed calls by the home affairs committee to make it an offence as ministers said it would be hard to prove and could have a negative effect on victims.

Mr Cameron will now ask Home Secretary Theresa May to consult on criminalising forced marriage by working with support groups to ensure that such a move does not deter victims from coming forward.

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Media captionDavid Cameron: "Forced marriage is little more than slavery"

Mr Cameron announced tougher visa rules to weed out "bogus" marriages and other immigration abuses.

He also called for relatives joining their families in the UK to speak English and have enough cash to live on - by setting a minimum income level the person bringing relatives in must earn.

He added that changes to the UK citizenship test were being planned to include questions about British history and culture.

Mr Cameron said the government wanted to prevent immigrants becoming a burden on the taxpayer and dependant on welfare, and is considering forcing some applicants to pay financial bonds.

He highlighted the changes already made to the points based system introduced by the previous Labour government, and promised further changes to ensure a "hard-headed selection of genuinely talented individuals based on our national interest".

The old system was "a system which was totally unfair... where migrants got the choice to come, rather than us having the choice of migrants".

'Who are they going to tell?'

The prime minister added: "Of course, in the modern world, where people travel and communicate more easily than ever before and where families have connections all across the globe, people do want to move to different countries to be with loved ones.

"We all understand this human instinct. But we need to make sure - for their sake as well as ours - that those who come through this route are genuinely coming for family reasons, that they can speak English, and that they have the resources they need to live here and make a contribution here - not just to scrape by, or worse, to subsist on benefit."

For Labour shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "While David Cameron talks about getting tough on illegal immigration, he is undermining our border enforcement by cutting 5,000 staff from the UK Borders Agency. And where he talks about limiting work visas, these actually went up under the Government's immigration cap."

UK Independence Party home affairs spokesman Gerard Batten said: "It is all well and good asking the public to 'shop' illegal immigrants but who are they going tell? Police numbers are being significantly cut so I doubt they will have the resources to tackle it.

"Plus, over the next four years the UK Border Agency will see a reduction of just over a fifth of its personnel following a lack of funding."

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