British Government to crackdown on illegal workers

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02 January 2002

The British Government is set to anounce sweeping changes to employment and immigration laws in a move designed to flush out up to 500,000 illegal foreign workers.

Immigration "hit squads" will concentrate on industries such as:

as part of a programme to treble the rate of removal of illegal immigrants and failed asylum-seekers to 2,500 a week.

Lord Rooker, the Immigration minister, has promised that a series of "high-profile prosecutions" of employers will send a message that it is no longer safe to work illegally in Britain.

As part of its White Paper on Asylum, Immigration and Citizenship, the Government will frame a code of conduct for employers in hiring foreign workers which they will have to abide by, or face being taken to court.

In addition, employers who are found to have been deliberately complicit in bringing illegal immigrants to Britain to work could face sentences of up to 14 years.

Lord Rooker claimed it was easier to work illegally in Britain "than in any other country in the European Union".

"There are small firms in this country which are paying the minimum wage, struggling to make ends meet, keeping going, and being undercut by some other types of firms who are employing illegal labour."

Prosecutions of employers for using illegal workers were currently "virtually non-existent", he said. "We are going to tackle this in a much more high-profile way as a means of sending the signal back down the line. A few big prosecutions will send the right signal."

Some industries within the British economy were clearly using large numbers of illegal workers, he said. "We are having a look, sector by sector. We have areas where it is known there is a propensity to have labour that is not legal. Illegal workers would face being deported, he said. "There will be no amnesties. Some people will be sent packing, there's no question about that. If nothing else it will help us to meet our removal targets."

The Government is anxious to give employers more opportunities to fill skill shortages by legally hiring foreign staff.

An overseas advertising campaign will attempt to lure up to 350,000 specialist workers to Britain. The message from the government is clear - if you want to work in the UK - you will have to have the proper permission.

You will find extensive information on working lawfully in the UK at the following section of our website If you or your employer would like our help in working legally in the UK please contact us on +44 (0)20 7495 3999.