BLOCKING the benefits of Britain to those in the UK illegally is at the heart of a new cross-Government enforcement strategy published by the Home Office.
The strategy is focused on fairness and enforcing the rules. It will allow the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) to progressively deny work, benefits and services to those here illegally by working in partnership with tax authorities, benefits agencies, Government Departments, local authorities, police and the private sector.
The creation of immigration crime partnerships between IND, local authorities, police, HM Revenue and Customs and local agencies to detect those here illegally and block benefits; regional partnerships with workplace enforcement teams from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Trade and Industry, to track down and punish unscrupulous bosses who exploit the system; joint work with local authorities to use fines of up to £20,000 against private sector landlords to tackle overcrowding - which builds on new search powers for IND through the UK Borders Bill; The creation of a watch list of illegal migrants that can be provided to other Government departments and agencies to deny access to services; Pilots in three NHS trusts designed to test how IND data can help ensure overseas visitors not entitled to free access pay for health care; Reviewing how the driver licensing system can be used to identify and combat illegal immigration. This will include identifying those illegal immigrants applying for licences fraudulently, will be denied a licence and targeted for enforcement action; Piloting how IND data can be used to prevent fraud against the financial services industry by illegal migrants who are likely to disappear; and ensuring individuals do not overstay their visas by texting reminders to their mobile phones - a three month pilot will begin in April this year.
Today's strategy builds on the commitment made by the Home Secretary in his review of IND last year, which was the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in its history and is backed by up to £100m extra for immigration policing.
Home Secretary John Reid said: "In Britain the majority of people work hard, play by the rules and get on through merit. We have a proud record of integrating immigrants from around the world, and Britain has become home to many individuals fleeing persecution.
"Most people who come to this country wish to comply fully with our immigration laws, but where they don't we are committed to blocking the benefits and privileges that should only be enjoyed by those here legitimately. "That's why the time is now right to tackle the root cause of the problem - exploitation. We have to tackle not only the illegal trafficking but also the illegal jobs at the end of the journey.
Introducing biometric ID cards, starting with newly arrived foreign nationals, will make it easier to ensure fair access to services and stamp out fraud and abuse.
"Today's strategy outlines how we plan to tackle those who commit the most serious harm first, by developing local partnerships allowing IND to respond to the individual needs of communities. "We will also make it easier to obey the rules through enhanced checking services for employers and the introduction of a new system for managing migration requiring sponsors to support applications.
"This new approach will make life in this country ever more uncomfortable and constrained for those who come here illegally." Other Government departments and police working with the Home Office to take forward its enforcement strategy have underlined why they think this is an important step forward.
DWP Minister Jim Murphy said: "The DWP is committed to doing all it can to ensure that people who live, work or claim benefits in Britain do so legally. We already work in close collaboration with the immigration services and welcome the opportunity to develop even closer links to help put this strategy into effect."
Bill Rammell, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, said: "There are many positive benefits from inward migration, as the enforcement strategy recognises. International students bring very significant economic, social and cultural benefits to the UK. We warmly welcome genuine international students to this country. At the same time, we want to prevent abuse of the student route, by those who attempt to use it to enter the UK for other purposes - for example to work illegally.
"As the Enforcement Strategy recognises, my Department already works closely with the Home Office to stop fake colleges operating and prevent bogus students from entering the UK. 40 per cent of all new applications to join the Register fall at the first hurdle, because they cannot meet the conditions for entry.
We also have applications pending from 250 colleges which have not been able to meet the requirements of the Register, and we think are unlikely to do so. "Our message to those who think it is easy to set up a fake college and recruit fake students is that we are on your case - don't even think about it."
Grahame Maxwell, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead on Immigration and Asylum and Deputy Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, said: "This enforcement strategy represents a really positive step forward for the Home Office, police and other agencies. ACPO welcomes the overall aims of the strategy, which is the culmination of many months of hard work by all involved.
"We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Home Office to establish an agreed approach in developing some of the detail within the report, whilst focusing on reducing the harm caused by illegal immigration and making our communities safer for all." The Home Office will also publish later to Parliament the responses to the consultation on new visa charges and the charges themselves for those who come to the UK to visit, study, live or work. The new fees will ensure those most benefiting from coming to the UK help pay to enforce the system, while holding down prices for those routes of greatest benefit to the UK such as visitors and students.
A new strategy to ensure and enforce compliance with our immigrations laws' can be found on the Home Office website at