Illegal driving licence clampdown criticised

A car on a road Image copyright PA

The UK's immigration chief has questioned whether a measure revoking driving licences of illegal migrants is working, because so few are handed in.

In 2014, the then Home Secretary Theresa May introduced measures to create a "hostile environment" for people in the country illegally.

The Home Office requested 9,732 driving licences be revoked in 2015, but only 337 were surrendered in 2015-16.

David Bolt said this low number "undermines" the impact of revocation.

Mr Bolt, who is chief inspector of borders and immigration, examined two measures that were introduced in the Immigration Act 2014 to be used specifically against people suspected of working illegally in the UK.

They were the power to refuse or revoke a UK driving licence, and the power to prevent the opening of a bank account.

His report found that records in the Home Office's main case working database were incomplete, had been finished incorrectly, or there were delays in updating them.

It said the failings meant some people without leave to be in the country were being missed while others were wrongly flagged as being here illegally.

'Two-fold impact'

The report said the small proportion of licences surrendered "undermines the intended two-fold impact of revocation: stopping illegal migrants from being able to drive lawfully, and from using a driving licence to access other benefits and services."

It found the failure in record keeping relating to revoked driving licences were "to some extent mitigated", but added: "It remains the case that some individuals were being wrongly flagged to DVLA as present in the UK without leave, while others who were present without leave were being missed."

There were 583 individuals who left the UK between April 2015 and January, having been stripped of their driving licence.

In five cases, the licence holder had departed the country before their leave had expired and had never been unlawfully resident in the UK.

Mr Bolt's report was also critical of a number of incidents where people had been wrongly stripped of their driving licence.

Last year saw 259 revoked licences reinstated, but the Home Office "did not appear to appreciate the seriousness of such errors for the individuals affected," the report said.

The report found that in cases where an applicant for a bank account or other product was matched to an individual on a "disqualified persons" list, 17 should never have been listed or should have been removed from the database.

It said that out of 169 individuals, only 10 had left the UK after a match had been reported.

A Home Office spokesman said measures discussed in the report "should not be seen in isolation, but as part of the wider action we are taking that has made it harder than ever before for illegal migrants to live in this country".

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