Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced details of a revamped Immigration Bill which she claims will make it harder for illegal immigrants to live in the UK.
New measures include:
- Banks to check immigration status of applicants who wish to open accounts,
- Applicants for driving licences would need to prove their immigration status,
- Private landlords required to check the immigration status of potential tenants.
- Limit the use of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to a private and family life – by illegal immigrants and criminals trying to stay in the UK,
- Restrict the right of immigration detainees behind bars to apply repeatedly for bail,
- Extend the notification period for a wedding to 28 days from 15 to crack down on sham marriages,
- Overseas nationals to prove they are in the country legally before receiving medical treatment from the NHS,
- Non-EU students to pay a levy of £200 before using health services,
- Foreign criminals will be deported before their appeal is heard,
- The grounds for appeal against deportation will be cut from 17 to 4.
May’s proposals do nothing to tackle the problems at UK borders.
Since coming to power, the number of foreign criminals deported from the UK has dropped by over 13% and border checks have been reduced by 50%. May has been plagued by a raft of problems with the Border Agency and the agency’s bureaucratic failings which have prevented foreign criminals from being deported.
The bill places the onus onto private individuals and organisations to monitor foreign nationals as a low cost/no cost solution instead of allocating government resources to locating and dealing with illegal immigration.
Estimates of the number of illegal immigrants in the UK range from around 400,000 to nearly 800,000.
Many illegal immigrants live under the radar of mainstream society, and are already skilled in obtaining official documents and public services by criminal or dubious means. Government proposals to supposedly restrict access to healthcare, housing, banking, and obtaining a driving licence will have little or no impact.
Of concern is May’s proposals to try and circumnavigate human rights legislation.
After the case of Abu Qatada who was finally deported after a 12 year legal battle earlier this year, May publically expressed her frustration and stated that current human rights legislation needed to be changed to give the government more power to deport foreign nationals and restrict the appeals process.
In the case of Abu Qatada, the reason his deportation took so long was because the government failed to provide proper and timely information to European Courts – not because of the process itself.
Shadow immigration minister, David Hanson, told the BBC “The Tories are still failing on immigration and this Bill won’t address some of the biggest problems.” He continued “Yet there seems to be nothing in the promised Bill to tackle problems at border control, which is getting increasingly shambolic, nor 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. Nor are they tackling exploitation in the labour market… For example the Bill is an opportunity to tackle problems such as enforcement of the minimum wage which would respond to concerns about the impact of EU migration.”
Despite government claims that immigration has reduced since they have been in power, figures from the Office of National Statistics show that immigration increased in the year ending December 2012 from 153,000 to 176,000.
Although May’s proposals will make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to be part of general society, it will do nothing to tackle the main problems, which are illegal immigrants entering the country in the first place, and finding illegal immigrants who are living ‘off the grid’.
It seems May and her government chums are just playing their usual game of not really addressing the problem and passing responsibility to someone else. If May was truly concerned about illegal immigration, the first thing would be to look at border controls and how to make them more efficient. It would also be reasonable to consider a complete revamp of how illegal immigrants are traced and dealt with by after they have entered the country.
May’s proposals appear as more of a political exercise to address what the government perceive as a public concern in the hope of getting a few more votes at the next election – but the public are not impressed.
In a recent YouGov survey on behalf of the think-tank ‘Migration Matters’ the results showed that the public are more concerned about the poor enforcement of existing legislation rather than changes being needed to the current system.