Following a second reading in the House of Commons, the UK’s approach to immigration is being reformed through the Immigration Bill, with three main objectives:
To stop migrants using public services to which they aren’t entitled
To reduce the pull factors which make the UK so appealing to illegal immigrants
To make it easier to remove the people who shouldn’t be here
Although immigration is down almost a fifth since it peaked in 2010, there’s still abuse of the system, meaning that work needs to be done.
The Immigration Minister, Mark Harper MP, has highlighted the issue of it being too easy for people to live and work in the UK illegally, and the importance of making sure that the system is fair to British citizens and legitimate immigrants who want to contribute to our economy and society, and play by the rules.
In order to do this, the removals and appeals system is being reformed, to make it easier and quicker to remove those with no right to be here. The bill will make this easier by cutting the number of decisions that can be appealed, restricting the ability of immigration detainees to apply repeatedly for bail and by extending the number of non-suspensive appeals.
One current barrier is Article 8, which is the right to respect for private and family life, which is currently being abused. The bill looks to address this and make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to live in the UK by requiring landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants to prevent those with no right to live in the UK from accessing private rented properties. Currently many private landlords will make checks on both a tenants identity and credit status, however not all landlords do it. It’s been proposed that employment checks are replicated to tighten this process. Homeless hostels and student halls of residents are exempt from this regulation as further ruling here is not considered appropriate.
These measures for landlords are considered highly significant and take up 16 clauses – a quarter of the bill, therefore there have been concerns raised about the provisions on landlords within the Bill. Mark Harper has confirmed that the government will look into this to ensure the provisions work well for the landlord and letting agency sector.
The Immigration Bill should make it easier to identify illegal immigrants, through extending powers to check fingerprints, searching for passports and examining the status of migrants seeking to marry. Banks are also being prohibited from opening bank accounts for migrants identified as being in the UK unlawfully.
These measures combined aren’t considered to be excessive, but a relative approach to a significant problem which aims to reach the balance of keeping the UK an attractive place to live and work for British citizens and legitimate immigrants, yet the least attractive destination for illegal immigrants.
The Bill has passed its second reading and has now moved to Committee stage.