The Immigration Bill 2015-16 received its first reading on 17th September, 2015; its second reading will be in the House of Commons on Tuesday, 13th October, 2015.
According to the Explanatory Notes published alongside the Bill, the purpose of the Bill is to tackle illegal immigration by making it harder to live and work illegally in the United Kingdom. The Bill contains a number of measures aimed at combating illegal working and restricting access to services for irregular migrants, extends the enforcement powers of immigration officers, detainee custody officers, prison officers and prisoner custody officers as well as making changes to the appeals system, immigration bail and asylum support.
JUSTICE is concerned about a number of provisions in the Bill. However, we concentrate on those provisions most closely within our area of expertise. We note the concerns expressed by others including: the power to evict tenants without recourse to the courts; changes to asylum support; and the closure or freezing of bank account. Silence on a specific provision is not meant to be read as approval.
Our concerns and recommendations relate to the following elements of the Bill:
- Clause 8: Offence of illegal working
Clause 8 of the Bill criminalises workers who are subject to immigration control and without leave in the UK and enables the confiscation of their wages.
- Clause 12: Offence of leasing premises
Clause 12 of the Bill introduces a new criminal offence for landlords and agents who let properties to those disqualified from renting by virtue of their immigration status.
- Clause 29 & Schedule 5: Immigration bail
Clause 29 and Schedule 5 make significant changes to the powers of the Home Office and the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) (‘FTT’) in relation to Immigration bail.
- Part 3: Enforcement
Part 3 of the Bill (and some of the provisions made under Part 2: Access to Services) significantly extend the enforcement powers held by immigration officers, in particular their powers to enter and search premises, to search individuals, and to seize and retain documents. In addition it confers on detainee custody officers, prison officers and prisoner custody officers powers to search for (including strip search), seize and retain “relevant nationality documents”.
- Part 4: Appeals
Part 4 of the Bill allows the Secretary of State to require appellants to appeal the refusal of their immigration related human rights claim from outside the UK except where “serious irreversible harm” would result.