Illegal immigration - UK
12 April 2002
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On Friday 12th April 2002, The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, published a package of measures to crack down on illegal immigrants to the UK and on UK employers who hire workers illegally.
Powers to stop illegal working will be strengthened in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum bill. They include measures to "compel" employers hiring cash-in-hand workers to cooperate.
Immigration officers will have new powers to enter businesses to search for illegal immigrants and demand information to detect asylum fraud. The officers will be empowered to remove children born in the UK when their parents entered the country unlawfully.
Another tough move will see the maximum jail term for those convicted of harbouring or trafficking illegal immigrants rise from six months to 14 years.
In a bid to strengthen Britain's borders, travel operators such as airlines will face a new "right to carry" scheme, where they will have to obtain clearance for passengers before they begin their journeys.
Carriers will be obliged to check passengers' details against a database to confirm they pose no known immigration or security risk.
The bill says immigration officers will eventually use high-tech "physical recognition equipment" - such as iris scans - to target immigration offenders or suspected security threats before they set out for the UK.
The Home Office also announced that a new project at Dover, entitled Operation Hornet, was beginning today using new technology known as Borderguard to help detect forged papers.
The system will help catch people who try to get into the country on different occasions using false identities.
Today's document is designed to boost the public's confidence in the border controls which have been spectacularly breached on so many occasions in recent months, particularly through the Channel tunnel.
There will also be legislation to cut short the ploys used by failed asylum seekers and their lawyers to stay in the country as long as possible, a Home Office spokesman announced.
For example, applicants will no longer be able to appeal the direction orders given to remove them from the UK, and there will be moves to stop "multiple time-wasting adjournments".
“We will cut down the endless opportunities for judicial review," he added.
The government was portraying the bill as a way of "plugging the loopholes" in the existing asylum and immigration system to make it function better, rather than creating a new system from scratch.
Mr Blunkett said: "Our asylum process must be efficient, fast and trusted by the British people.
"This is not about creating 'fortress Britain'. We are an open, trading nation, and we will continue to meet our obligations - along with the rest of the international community - to provide a safe haven to people fleeing persecution. But we will not be seen as a soft touch."
He added: "We have a responsibility to asylum seekers, to consider their claim fairly and quickly and to support them during the process, but they in turn have a responsibility toward us. "I am equally determined that would-be illegal immigrants get the message that we are tightening our rules and deploying every possible measure to deter and to detect them."
Other points in the bill, some of which were mooted in a white paper in February, include: Making it easier to tackle fraud by requiring banks, employers and public authorities to share information about suspected illegal entrants with the immigration officers.
- Making it an offence to unlawfully possess immigration stamps or to falsify asylum application registration cards.
- Increasing the penalty for illegal people trafficking from 10 to 14 years.
- Creating a new tiered system of accommodation centres to house thousands of asylum seekers.
- Introducing a "citizenship pledge" ceremony in which immigrants would have to swear allegiance to the monarch and to uphold Britain's laws and democratic values.
- Making it compulsory to learn English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic for those who wanted to apply for citizenship.
- Introducing a new offence of trafficking people for prostitution to clamp down on the exploitation of vulnerable people, which will carry a maximum 14 year term.
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