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The Immigration Bill 2015-16 was laid before Parliament this week and contains a number of proposed changes to the current remit of the Immigration Act, in particular it seeks to expand the powers of officials in more ways than expected. Proposed changes include expanding powers of detention and property seizure, and also the expansion of the remit of people who can be subjected to these procedures by seeking to broaden it to include those who are merely under suspicion of being in the UK without the relevant approval.
There are considerable worries that the Bill, if passed, will allow for the further exploitation of migrant workers due to the proposed measures taking away many of their rights to legal protection. Is this a breach of human rights? Here we have summarised some of the main proposed points in the Bill to allow you to form your own opinions of its provisions.
In a bid to crack down on those working in the UK illegally, the Bill proposes a new offence within the remit of illegal working, the penalties for which include the ability for officials to enter and search properties, seize earnings, close down businesses and even seize properties. In addition to these penalties, those convicted of working without the required visa or paperwork would also find themselves serving a 12 month prison term, accompanied by an unlimited fine, the amount of which will be decided by the sentencing judge. These penalties for illegal workers would be in addition to the existing provisions of immigration officials which allows them to deport those found guilty.
Unfortunately, there are fears that this will promote the already existing sub-culture of employers who take on illegal migrant workers. Furthermore, these employers will gain further control over illegal migrants and will, arguably, be able to use their illegal status in order to exploit them and hold them under slave-like conditions.
Whilst there have already been measures put in place recently to tackle landlords who don’t ensure their tenants have the proper paperwork, the new Bill aims to take the measures a step further. Whilst the Immigration Act 2014 contains provisions for landlords to be fined, the new measures will mean that they would also be liable to be imprisoned for up to 5 years if they fail to carry out the required checks. Controversially, landlords could also be found liable for illegal migrants staying at the property, even if they aren’t the named tenant.
An independent study by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants recently found that this provision could be encouraging discrimination against legitimate migrants who have the correct UK visas. It could also be said that the same possibility exists as in the previous provision with illegal workers whereby the migrants could be opened up to exploitation by rogue or unscrupulous landlords that will house them in sub-par or slum-like living conditions.
The majority of provisions for appeal against immigration decisions were incredulously removed in the Immigration Act 2014, with measures also brought in to allow for people to be lawfully deported unless their grounds for appeal was related to human rights. Again, this Bill seeks to take this further by allowing for the deportation of families and individuals who have launched an asylum appeal based on Human Rights. This means that people who have been rejected but the refusal of asylum may be in breach of their human rights will still be deported whilst their appeal is reviewed. As the appeal system is fraught with backlogs, creating extensive delays, the full effect of the 2014 Immigration Act provisions remain to be seen, but it is certain that these new procedures will add to whatever effect is evident.
Those who have had their asylum applications refused are currently eligible for support, both financially and at a basic level. The new Bill seeks to remove the provisions set aside to help rejected asylum seekers, many of whom are vulnerable individuals, largely women and children. Removal of support for these people will not only render them homeless, but will also remove their ability to earn an income or fend for and support themselves, leaving them completely destitute with nowhere to go and nothing to eat.
The immigration Bill 2015-16 will go to second reading in the House of Commons on the 13th of October, where it will be debated and its merits and concerns thoroughly considered.
If you are concerned about how the proposed changes may effect your immigration or asylum application then get in touch with one of our solicitors on 0800 069 6659 we would be happy to help with your query.