Britain to get tough against illegal workers

Workers heading to work in Southwark in central London, Britain.
Workers heading to work in Southwark in central London, Britain. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • People found working illegally in England and Wales face up to six months in prison and could have their wages seized under new proposals announced by the British government.

The announcement comes as the Conservative government is under pressure to show it is in control of immigration, one of the most sensitive topics in British politics, after increased attempts by migrants to reach England from France.

"Anyone who thinks (Britain) 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," Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said yesterday.

"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."

Ms Natacha Bouchart, mayor of the northern French port city of Calais, where thousands of migrants are camped in the hope of crossing to Britain, has previously said Britain's generous welfare system and lax identity controls make it a magnet for illegal migrants.

The Immigration Bill, which Premier David Cameron's government is to introduce this year, will allow for pubs, takeaway food outlets and off-licences, or bottle shops, to have their licences revoked if they are found to employ people who lack permission to work in Britain.

The government previously announced that the law would also allow for wages earned by people working illegally to be seized as proceeds of crime. Banks would have to check accounts against migrant databases - and under the legislation, landlords would be expected to evict tenants whose requests for asylum fail. Employers of illegal workers face fines and an increased maximum prison term of five years.

Britain hopes the law will make it easier to prosecute those who knowingly hire illegal workers.Last week, France and Britain signed a deal to tackle smuggling gangs and try to reduce daily bids by migrants and refugees from Asia, Africa or the Middle East to break into the Channel Tunnel in an attempt to get to Britain.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2015, with the headline 'Britain to get tough against illegal workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe