John Reid’s immigration crackdown has started, not on the real criminals and people traffickers, but easy targets such as working migrants and employers who accidentally fall foul of the rules.
Last month the Home Secretary announced the new Borders Bill, which includes proposals for compulsory ID cards and fingerprinting for foreign nationals. But the real action is taking place behind the scenes in the Home Office Compliance and Validation team. This is the department responsible for post-issue checking of Work Permits.
The team is currently checking files and sending out compliance questionnaires to employers. Where cases of illegal employment are identified, for instance not employing a worker as stated on the Work Permit, action will be taken. In some cases Immigration Enforcement Officers are dispatched to round up workers and remove them from the UK.
Last week six Senior Carers had their work permits cancelled following a compliance check on their Nursing Home employer. The workers, from the Philippines, India, China and South Africa, all had their visas cancelled and have been issued removal notices ordering them to immediately leave the UK.
One of the Filipinos, has been working for the company for three years and had just returned from maternity leave after giving birth to her second child. Her husband is employed in the town and her son attends the local primary school. The whole family will be forced to leave the UK through no fault of their own. She told me that she enjoys her work and has a good record at the home.
“Since I came to Britain I have always worked hard and never complained about anything. I have done nothing wrong and can’t understand why they are sending me home.”
The employer, who has asked not to be named, received a letter from the Compliance and Validation Team informing them that they were employing the Senior Carers illegally and that all Work Permits had been revoked.
They have tried to reason with the Home Office officials who have refused to discuss the cases. The Matron of the Home claimed that the Home Office told her that they “did not believe we were employing the workers as Senior Carers.”
The Home Office said that the Senior Carer’s Job Description, was a “standard document used to get people into the country”.
The care group employs hundreds of staff, including 40 overseas workers, and has always done everything by the book.
The Compliance and Validation Team at Home Office have effectively accused them of obtaining Work Permits by deception and told one of their managers that the post of Senior Carer “does not exist in the care industry”.
The manager claimed that they warned him that if he appeals or takes things further it could make things worse.
Dawn raid to remove a Nurse who was refused a Work Permit
In another unfortunate case, Cecilia, a Filipino nurse was taken from her house this week during a dawn raid by two Immigration Officers. The enforcement officers knocked on her door at 6.00am and demanded to see the passport of another Filipino, who just happened to open the door. They then asked for Cecilia’s passport, which she said was at the Home Office pending an application for Further Leave to Remain (FLR).
One of the officers went to his car and returned with Cecilia’s passport and told her she was staying in the UK illegally. Cecilia was taken to Uxbridge Police Station and later transferred to a detention centre in Bedford pending removal on the next available flight. The Police refused to allow Cecilia’s family or her employer to see her.
Cecilia came to the UK on a Work Permit in 2004 arranged by Bison UK. In 2006 she changed jobs and transferred to another employer. The new employer was confident they could arrange her new Work Permit without the help of an immigration adviser.
Two applications and two refusals later with Cecilia’s existing visa about to expire, the employer decided to submit an FLR application, despite the fact that she still had no Work Permit.
At this point Cecilia went back to her Bison UK consultant who promptly got the Work Permit approved. However, before any further action could be taken, Cecilia was picked up and detained.
The advice here is “look before you leap” and get your Work Permit before changing jobs. Cynthia Barker, Manager of Bison UK agrees:
“Once you leave a job your Work Permit and Visa will be cancelled. Unless the new employer has already arranged your new permit and Further Leave to Remain you should not start work.”
In the past the Home Office would have taken a more lenient view on this kind of situation. Even when mistakes were made by employers the migrant worker would be given an opportunity to rectify the problem and regularise their stay. After all, they are just ordinary hardworking people, not criminals.
How attitudes have changed in a Labour Government, which has traditionally taken a more sympathetic line on immigration. Is this the “Safe and Tolerant Society” the Home Office is building?
What these cases prove is that the Home Office has adopted a harder approach towards migrants and employers who fail to comply with the rules.
If you should have any questions or views or need help please email Charles Kelly email@example.com.
I will be speaking at the ‘Showcase for Social Care and Social Work’, organized by Surrey Care Association and Skills for Care, on: “Employing Overseas Staff?” – 14th March 2007 at the Copthorne Hotel, Effingham Park.