Home Secretary John Reid has announced tough new border controls to prevent illegal immigration, but offers no respite for beleaguered employers.
Immigration officers will be given more powers and foreign nationals will be required to carry Identity Cards and provide fingerprints and digital photographs.
The measures, reported in Immigration Matters last August, are part of the new Borders Bill, the fifth on immigration in eight years. It will give immigration officers new powers of arrest and foreign prisoners will face automatic deportation at the end of their sentence.
In an interview on BBC Radio Immigration Minister Liam Byrne denied the bill was a “knee-jerk” response to last year’s foreign prisoner scandal.
Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke lost his job last year when it emerged more than 1,000 foreign prisoners due for deportation had been released.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “This has been a very, very carefully constructed piece of legislation.
“What it allows us to do is presume that somebody will be automatically deported if they have committed a certain kind of offence.”
£4.7 billion to deport all the illegal immigrants in the UK
Mr Byrne defended proposals for new identity documents for foreign nationals.
“At the moment, there are up to 60 different documents which someone can show to prove their entitlement to be in Britain. That is much too complicated.
“This year, I am going to increase the sanctions for businesses that break the rules and employ people illegally.
“I think the very least I can do is make life easier for those businesses by giving them a failsafe, easy method to check whether people are here legally and whether they are who they say they are.”
The new Borders Bill may prevent more people entering the UK illegally, how will a few hundred immigration officers cope with the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants already here?
Mr Byrne and his predecessors have rejected any talk of an amnesty for over-stayers, but do not appear to have any idea of how to deal the problem of deporting half a million people.
According to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) last year, it would cost an estimated £4.7 billion to deport all the illegal immigrants in the UK, based on the National Audit Office figure of £11,000 per person.
Last year David Roberts, of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, said he did not have the “faintest idea” how many illegal immigrants there were in the UK.
Businesses to face sanctions for employing illegal immigrants
The Government is once again hitting businesses with threats of fines for employing overseas workers illegally. Many business owners have received the Home Office leaflet “Hiring an Illegal Immigrant Could Cost You Thousands” which warns of “unlimited fines” and “expensive legal costs” if you fail to fulfil your obligations.
How does Mr Byrne expect businesses, already burdened with Government red tape, to police the system when, in his own words, there are “60 different documents” which could be shown to an employer?
After all, it’s not the employer’s fault that the Government allowed over half a million illegal immigrants into the UK in the first place.
Employer Guide Available
Some help is available, although the onus will still be on the employer to sort out the “wheat from the chaff”. The Home Office publishes a useful document to help employers decipher the numerous visa stamps and immigration categories.
You can download the guide from the Home Office website www.employingmigrantworkers.org.uk, but I would recommend ordering the hard copy which contains colour photographs and images of visa and Leave to Remain stamps.
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.