Britain is in the process of crafting stringent immigration regulations likely to affect thousands of Zimbabweans living and working illegally in the United Kingdom.
According to several British newspapers and the British government’s website, VISA and Immigration, and some Zimbabweans living in the UK, the Immigration Bill will make it difficult for illegal immigrants to live and work in the country.
Some British newspapers report that the Bill that has gone through its second reading in the House of Commons, has been strongly opposed by lawmakers of the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and others.
Some sections of the Bill indicate that illegal immigrants found working without proper residence permits in England and Wales could face up to six months in jail while police would be able to seize wages as “proceeds of crime”.
In the past, such illegal immigrants were normally warned and cautioned for working in the country.
Most of the independent newspapers report that African illegal immigrants that are likely to be hard hit are those working mainly as waiters, hair dressers, hotel cleaners, taxi or cab drivers, bartenders and other related jobs.
Businesses, according to the media reports, that employ illegal immigrants will face stiff penalties. One of the papers wrote, “Instead of claiming that they did not know their employees were illegal, businesses will have to carry out proper checks before employing people, with civil penalties being raised. The jail sentence for employers found guilty will be raised from 2 years to 5 years in addition to fines in place.”
The Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron says the new immigration measures will protect the country’s public services and low-skilled workers.
The government’s VISA and Immigration website acknowledges that “the Immigration Bill will introduce new sanctions on illegal immigration, protect our public services and tackle exploitation of low-skilled workers.”
It further says the Bill will introduce new sanctions on illegal workers and rogue employers, provide better coordination of regulators that enforce workers’ rights, prevent illegal migrants in the UK from accessing housing, driving licences and bank accounts and introduce new measures to make it easier to enforce immigration laws and remove illegal migrants.”
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire is quoted by a government website as saying: "The message is clear - if you are here illegally, you shouldn't be entitled to receive the everyday benefits and services available to hard-working UK families and people who have come to this country legitimately to contribute.
“Whether it is working, renting a flat, having a bank account or driving a car, the new Immigration Bill will help us to take tougher action than ever before on those who flout the law. This Bill will build on the government’s work since 2010 to crack down on abuse and build an immigration system that truly benefits Britain – by deterring illegal migrants from coming and making it harder for those already here to live and work in the UK.”
Critics say it will be difficult for most non-English speaking immigrants to work in public offices as workers in such institutions will be required to pass English proficiency tests.
In addition, the UK will introduce an immigration skills charge for employers who preferentially employ skilled migrants. This will ensure that foreigners do not take jobs of UK citizens with similar skills.
At the same time, all immigration appeals and judicial reviews are subject to deport first, appeal later measures with the right to private and family life appeals included.
FAMILIES SERIOUSLY AFFECTED
“This means many included will face removal from the UK despite an outstanding appeal to their case. This process is likely to be practically difficult and is likely to separate families further,” said Zimbabwean, Thamsanqa Zhou, who is linked to a non-governmental organization, Diaspora Forum Group.
Ephraim Tapa of Restoration of Hope and Zimbabwe Vigil, who normally handles some immigration and human rights issues, said thousands of Zimbabweans are panicking over the new regulations as illegal immigrants won’t be able to drive vehicles and live in rented homes without the necessary documents.
Tapa said, “There are so many things that this government is trying to do to control immigration. Some of the regulations are that they want owners of households, employers and almost like making every institution a home office official that is to say they must check the immigration status of somebody before they give them accommodation, before they can admit them into employment, before they can open an (any) account and all that kind of stuff … and even driving is also becoming a big concern.”
He said most organizations are against these regulations, adding that some Zimbabweans in the process of regularizing their stay in UK will be seriously affected.
PROSTITUTION AND CRIME
“It means any potential employers should check people’s papers and … if there is no public support for housing and other basic necessities illegal immigrants will find it difficult to get alternative housing.
“What then all this means is that you will see Zimbabwean asylum seekers without enough support, without relatives to take care of them or friends to take care of them will then have to be on the streets and some of them going into prostitution and crime and all that. It’s going to affect a large number of Zimbabweans.”
Kate Hoey of the Parliament Group on Zimbabwe and Member of Parliament for Vauxhall constituency was not available for comment as she was said to be busy.
More than 800,000 Zimbabweans are believed to be living in the United Kingdom. Some of them don’t have proper immigration papers while others left Zimbabwe to seek greener pastures.
Some of them were students, who ended up seeking political asylum in that country. British universities have been instructed to look at such issues.
The majority of asylum seekers are political and economic refugees.
KEY IMMIGRATION BILL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (SOURCED FROM UK’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE - GOV.UK)
Why do we need to legislate again when there was an Immigration Act in 2014? The Immigration Act 2014 put in place many effective measures intended to reduce illegal immigration and making it more difficult for illegal migrants to live and work in the UK. This Bill builds on those measures. For example, the 2014 Act ‘right to rent’ scheme requires landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. This new Bill provides landlords with additional routes to evict illegal migrants as well as creating new offences for unscrupulous landlords who continuously rent to illegal migrants. However, this Bill also incorporates a number of new measures not covered under the 2014 Act for example, a raft of new measures to deny illegal migrants access to the labour market.
How does the Bill help control net migration? Measures in the Bill make the UK a less attractive place for illegal migrants and those who seek to exploit them. But it is just one part of our broader strategy for reducing net migration. As the Prime Minister has set out, we will reform our immigration and labour market rules, so we reduce the demand for skilled migrant labour and crack down on the exploitation of low-skilled workers, and we will renegotiate a new relationship with the EU.
How does the Bill help with the Syrian refugee crisis? The Bill creates new powers to combat the facilitation of vulnerable migrants. But we should not look to primary legislation for solutions when our response can be quicker and simpler. The Bill complements the immediate action we are taking to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees and further secure border control in Calais.
Will the Bill result in a large cost to the public purse? The costs of implementing measures in this Bill are outweighed by the benefits. The Bill creates new powers penalties that will allow immigration officers to work more efficiently to tackle illegal migration and limit access to services for those with no right to be here.
For further details of the Immigration Bill, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/462004/Immigration_Bill_Factsheet_01_-_overarching.pd