Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said yesterday that the forthcoming Immigration Bill will introduce a new offence of illegal working punishable by up to six months in prison and an unlimited fine in England and Wales.
The Immigration Bill is set to be introduced this autumn.
A Gov.uk news release reported that the Bill will also make it easier to prosecute employers who know, or reasonably suspect, that persons they employ do no have legal permission to work in the UK.
Businesses such as pubs, off-licences or takeaways who evade sanctions or offend repeatedly face losing their licence to operate.
Brokenshire was quoted as saying: “Anyone who thinks the UK is a soft touch should be in no doubt — if you are here illegally, we will take action to stop you from working, renting a flat, opening a bank account or driving a car.”
“As a one nation government we will continue to crack down on abuse and build an immigration system that works in the best interests of the British people and those who play by the rules.”
“Through our new Immigration Bill, illegal workers will face the prospect of a prison term and rogue employers could have their businesses closed, have their licences removed, or face prosecution if they continue to flout the law.”
Labour’s shadow immigration minister David Hanson was quoted by The Herald as saying: “This is the third time the Government have announced forms of these plans which have yet to be scrutinised by parliament in the as yet unpublished Immigration Bill. They are simply trying to look tough before Thursday’s migration figures and in the wake of failures at Calais.”
Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) warned that the plans to ramp up enforcement action in migrant communities across the country is likely to prove divisive and increase the sense of fundamental injustice in the UK immigration control system.
MRN director Don Flynn said: “The proposal to create a criminal offence which could lead to a six month prison sentence with an unlimited fine for anyone found working without the right papers is also grossly disproportionate to any harm which migrants in a vulnerable position may be considered to have done.”
Flynn was also concerned that the government appeared to have singled out pubs, takeaways and off licenses: “business sectors where people of migrant backgrounds have established themselves on high streets across the country.”