The Immigration Act 2016

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The Immigration Act 2016 received Royal Ascent last week - just in time for yesterday’s migration statistics.  Its key provisions are:

  • a new criminal offence of illegal working. With effect from 12 July those found guilty could face up to 51 weeks in prison and seizure of their earnings;
  • employers knowingly employing illegal migrants may be arrested without warrant on reasonable suspicion and, on conviction, imprisoned for up to 5 years (increased from 2 years);
  • new powers of entry, search and seizure of documents for the Border Force;
  • summary power to close premises for up to 48 hours on reasonable grounds for suspecting illegal migrants are employed there;
  • criminal sanctions (including up to 5 years imprisonment) against landlords and letting agents who repeatedly fail to make right to rent checks or to evict illegal migrants;
  • measures intended to prevent illegal migrants from opening bank accounts or obtaining driving licences, including a new offence of driving while unlawfully in the UK;
  • public sector workers in customer facing roles must be able to speak fluent English;
  • extended power for the Home Secretary to override human rights issues in immigration appeals to enforce the policy of “deport first, appeal later” and to cancel Section 3C leave (the automatic visa extension which protects those awaiting a decision on an in-time application) thereby rendering affected applicants illegal migrants.

In short the Act is the legislative equivalent of a stroppy 3 year old stamping his feet in frustration and casting blame everywhere but where it really lies. 

Yesterday’s statistics show that 270,000 long term migrants came to this country from the EU in the year ended 31 December 2015 and 277,000 came from outside the EU. As always they’re only estimates and are open to all sorts of interpretation but my analysis indicates that in broad terms migration from the EU to the UK has risen fairly steadily in 8 out of the last 9 quarters whereas from outside the EU there’s been a modest fall in 4 of the last 5 quarters. That looks like it could be a trend.

You might think that our European brothers and sisters are voting with their feet; I couldn’t possibly comment.