UK

Illegal immigration: Minister pledges crackdown on 'rogue employers'

Immigration officers arrest woman during raid in Slough, Berkshire. Image copyright PA
Image caption The government said it was to crackdown on businesses employing illegal workers

Businesses that employ illegal workers will be hit with "the full force of government machinery", immigration minister James Brokenshire has warned.

He said "rogue employers" who give work to illegal migrants were denying UK citizens jobs, driving down wages and gaining an "unfair advantage".

The Times says immigration officers are to carry out raids on cleaning firms, building sites and care homes.

But Labour's Yvette Cooper said the Home Office should "still do more".

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said ministers were trying to "enhance" practical measures to combat illegal workers, rather than bring in new measures.


At the scene: Alex Morrison, BBC News website

Mohammed, 43, from Egypt, said he was a fisherman at home and hoped to do the same in the UK.

He said he had also worked as a waiter and a crane operator and would do whatever job he could get if he succeeded in crossing the Channel.

But he said extra security around Calais in recent days meant it was now "too dangerous" to attempt a crossing.

He said he was unsure what to do next - but must find a safe home somewhere in Europe, possibly in Germany.


How many people are here illegally?

A 2009 London School of Economics study estimated the UK had 618,000 "irregular" residents - including children - but in 2010 campaign group Migration Watch said the figure was closer to 1.1 million. The studies are the most recent estimates.

What is the government doing?

Immigration Enforcement teams will carry out more raids, along with bodies such as HM Revenue & Customs, the Gangmasters' Licensing Authority and Health and Safety Executive taking part.

What happens to employers of illegal workers?

Employers can be fined up to £20,000 per person for employing illegal workers. Employers who knowingly employ an illegal worker can be jailed for up to two years.

Would Calais migrants really be better off in the UK?

What happens to UK asylum seekers?


Mr Brokenshire said: "Experience tells us that employers who are prepared to cheat employment rules are also likely to breach health and safety rules and pay insufficient tax.

"That's why our new approach will be to use the full force of government machinery to hit them from all angles and take away the unfair advantage enjoyed by those who employ illegal migrants."

Shadow home secretary, Ms Cooper said the government should extend the Gangmasters' Licensing Authority - a public body that works to stop worker exploitation - and to "make exploitation a crime".

"Exploitation hurts everyone - those who are working hard and being exploited, other workers whose pay and jobs are undercut, and responsible employers who are undermined," she added.


Analysis

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's James O'Hara reports on efforts to tackle the exploitation of illegal migrants

By Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

It's not new but he's hammering away at the message.

James Brokenshire is targeting illegal foreign workers, employers giving them work and the Brits who've just elected a Tory government.

To the foreign workers it is an echo of Theresa May's words last week: that the streets of Britain are not "paved with gold".

To the care home and cleaning company workers who'll face more unannounced visits it's an echo of the measures announced last week threatening landlords who house illegal workers with longer prison time.

To the voters who see chaos in Calais on the TV it's yet more evidence, he hopes, that the government is trying its best.


A 2009 study carried out for London Mayor Boris Johnson estimated that the UK had 618,000 "irregular" residents - including children - with London accounting for about 70%. The campaign group Migration Watch says a figure of 1.1 million is "more plausible".

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated in 2011 that the use of illegal immigrants represented 1% of total employment in the UK.

In 2013, a BBC investigation found two-thirds of fines imposed on employers of illegal workers over a five-year period had been uncollected in the past five years.

West Midlands pilot

Last week, it was announced landlords in England would be expected to evict tenants who lose the right to live in the UK, or potentially face prison.

According to figures obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act, a pilot scheme - launched last December in the West Midlands - to fine landlords for renting homes to illegal immigrations has caught just seven people.

The Home Office said two further landlords were under consideration for penalty under the scheme. Private landlords had been fined a total of £5,480 since the new law came into force, with £1,720 paid so far.

Mr Brokenshire's comments also follow a call from Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond for EU laws to be overhauled to ensure people coming from Africa to Europe could be returned to their home country.

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