The bill passed its final Commons reading yesterday
The debate on air strikes in Syria has dominated parliament for the past week, allowing some important policy changes to go widely unreported.
George Osborne’s decision to scrap carbon capture storage, for example, received little scrutiny; and yesterday the Immigration Bill quietly passed its third reading in the Commons. The bill contains some very worrying proposals which should be contested, including measures to:
- Make it a criminal offence to work without leave to remain or beyond the restrictions of a visa, and classify any wages earned in such a way as the proceeds of crime (p.5). This would mean even someone with a legal right to be in the country, such as a student, could face a sentence of up to 51 weeks in prison for working slightly beyond their visa restrictions. The TUC has raised concerns that the new offence will make it harder for bad employers to be found out; undocumented migrants are unlikely to report exploitation to the authorities if they risk a criminal charge. The new offence also gives exploitative bosses a tool with which to threaten workers if they try to complain about standards.
- Give immigration officers new powers to enter and search small businesses, such as corner shops, and close them for 48 hours (p.8). There are concerns that this will increase the risk of ethnic profiling in raids; they are designed to create a ‘hostile environment’ for undocumented immigrants.
- Link immigration enforcement to labour market regulation (p.2). It will do this by creating a new director of Labour Market enforcement to oversee the work of the Gangmasters Licensing Agency, HMRC and the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate. The TUC points out that this person would report to both the Business secretary and the Home secretary, meaning ‘there is a clear risk that workplace inspections and regulation are used as a way to seek out and deport undocumented migrants’. Again, this will make things easier for bad bosses, whose employees will not report abuse for fear of being prosecuted.
- Cancel support for failed asylum seekers and their children (p.38) This will increase poverty among asylum seekers and their families, and is likely to force more asylum seekers into unregulated employment. This will fuel exploitation, and in effect undercut the measures outlined above. The TUC has called on the government to reverse cuts to local authority budgets so there are enough resources for them to ‘fulfil their duty of care to failed asylum seekers and their children’.
The combination of these measures put asylum seekers in an impossible position where they can neither work nor receive state support. Eyes will now be turned to the Lords, where the Immigration Bill will go for final consideration.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward
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