Select Committee on Home Affairs Fifth Report


399. In the previous chapters we have described the expensive and often complex decision-making structures that determine whether or not an individual has the right to enter or remain in the UK. A substantial number of people are refused that right, come to the end of their leave or breach its conditions, or have avoided the immigration system altogether. The integrity of the entire system depends ultimately on its effectiveness in dealing with those people.

400. People who are in the UK but do not have the right to remain can be required to leave. If they do not leave, they are liable to be arrested, detained and their departure from the UK enforced. There are now four basic 'enforcement' procedures: port removals (for people who have not been granted leave), administrative removal (for those who have overstayed their leave, breached its conditions or obtained leave by deception), illegal entry action (for those who enter in breach of the immigration laws, including by deception) and deportation (following a criminal conviction or where it is "conducive to the public good"). Only the last of these constitutes a bar to returning to the UK. In many cases the person may also have committed an immigration-related criminal offence, but the authorities rarely prosecute.

The need for effective enforcement

401. The whole immigration control system is designed to prevent unwanted people from coming into the UK and our evidence suggests a lot of people are working very hard to do this. But it cannot provide a hermetic seal: there will always be some people who get into the UK or stay here in breach of those controls. Indeed, Professor Nigel Harris, Chairman of the RSA[393] Migration Commission, suggested to us that "the migration system itself has the perverse, paradoxical effect of forcing settlement because if it is so difficult to get in and if the costs of getting in mean that you borrow so heavily and that you have to work for such a long period of time to pay off your debts, all this forces settlement".[394] Dr Khalid Koser, Senior Policy Analyst at the Global Commission on International Migration, suggests that migration policies can stop irregular migration in the short term, "but in the medium to long term…those controls can be overcome".[395] Therefore the system must also deal effectively with people who are in the UK unlawfully.

402. At present the lack of removals is felt to undermine the efforts made by thousands of people to ensure that the right people are allowed to enter or stay in the UK. Mr Justice Hodge, President of the AIT, expressed this frustration:

    One of my judiciary's concerns always is that you work hard and you produce a result and it does not result in anything very much. As MPs you must feel exactly the same and so does the Daily Mail and other worthy journals. Removals is a big, big problem in this field. An efficient removal system would be great.[396]

403. The ECOs, Immigration Officers and IND caseworkers we met expressed similar frustration.

Current enforcement efforts

404. The number of removals is nowhere near the likely number of people who are not entitled to be in the UK. Although figures on removal and deportation are published, it is impossible to work out how many of the people who should be removed are in fact removed, partly because the data on removals are not comparable with the data on arrivals[397] and partly because without universal embarkation checks no-one knows how many people leave the UK voluntarily.

405. The most recent official figures gave a total of 10,085 non-asylum applicants removed from the UK as a result of enforcement action in 2004[398] (and we were told in oral evidence that the current target removing 1,000 individuals a month from the UK was exceeded last year).[399] And yet the IND refused 32,335 applications for an extension of leave or settlement in 2004.[400] Although some of these refusals would have been appealed, not all appeals will be successful: in 2004 6,295 in-country immigration appeals were dismissed or withdrawn.[401]

406. Based on data for failed applications and known removals at May 2004, the National Audit Office estimated the backlog of asylum removals at between 155,000 and 283,500.[402] We are not aware of a similar estimate for a non-asylum removals backlog.

407. Unless we make the heroic assumption that all those who are refused but not removed do leave the country of their own volition, it is clear that the current rate of removal is not even keeping up with the increase in the number of those not entitled to remain in the UK.

408. When asked whether he was satisfied over the removal of those who have no right to be in the UK, Dave Roberts, the IND's Director of Enforcement and Removals, replied "Yes, I am satisfied…that the target that was set for us last year to remove immigration offenders who are not failed asylum seekers was not only met but was exceeded; so to that extent I am satisfied".[403]

409. The Director General of the IND, Lin Homer, told us that this target of 12,000 non-asylum removals per year was a management target, based not on the number of removals needed but on the resources available and set as an improvement on the previous year's target. The Home Secretary agreed with us that this is not the right way to set the target: "I am not defending the indefensible here because that decision was made the wrong way round if that is the case, but you always have to bear in mind the resources which are there, but we ought to be trying to tackle the problem on the basis of what is the extent and nature of the problem."[404]

410. The difficulty of setting removals targets was illustrated when a previous Home Secretary, Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, had to abandon a target of removing 2,500 failed asylum seekers per month[405] after admitting to our predecessor Committee little more than a year after the target was set that it was "massively over-ambitious" and "was not achievable".[406]

411. The integrity of the entire immigration system depends on the effective enforcement of the Immigration Rules. Current enforcement efforts are clearly inadequate. The resources made available for enforcement activities should be determined by the scale of enforcement required, rather than the other way around.

Enforcement priorities

412. A 2003 study suggested that prioritisation in enforcement was largely determined by the political need to increase numbers of removals, by the likelihood of being able to bring charges or the assumed ease of removal.[407] This seems to be borne out by evidence from the IND's Director of Enforcement and Removals, Dave Roberts. He surprised us when he said that IND does not track individuals for removal:

    Clearly, if we are to target individuals whose leave may have expired, for example, then we would need a very different system of internal immigration control than we have at the moment, and targeting individuals in order to ensure that they are removed is not, I believe, an effective enforcement strategy. What we need to have is a very clear set of priorities which are ranked, if you like, in terms of an understanding of the harm that people who are here unlawfully cause the UK and target our resources accordingly. What I would argue is that, in terms of our targeted resources, we have a number of competing priorities which the Committee are very familiar with. We have a priority to remove failed asylum seekers. That is given us quite properly by ministers as a requirement. It would be quite wrong to say that was our only focus, which was why I explained in my opening remarks how we were doing in relation to non-asylum removals. I do not think the answer is to create an expectation that an adequate enforcement strategy is to pursue individuals at individual level.[408]

413. We understand Mr Roberts to mean that the IND does not track individuals from the point at which they are in breach of immigration rules until their eventual removal. It appears, however, that most enforcement action is taken against individuals (or families) rather than groups of people (such as those picked up in factory raids). We regard the inability to identify and track individuals who are in breach of the Immigration Rules as a major weakness in the system.

414. Enforcement operations as a whole appear to be on the increase. Mr Roberts told us that in 2005 the UK Immigration Service carried out 2,850 enforcement operations "against illegal work", against 1,618 operations the previous year.[409] However, the number of resulting prosecutions is relatively small. In 2005/06, 378 prosecutions were completed, the large majority of which were for "document abuse":

259document abuse
25breach of immigration control
21marriage abuse
14 asylum abuse
10 illegal working (various)
8Section 8 (employer)
3Section 2 (entry - no documents)
9not known[410

415. The IND also gave us details of the percentages of staff deployed in different types of removal work in April to December 2005:

Residential addresses (including family removals) 68.1%
Illegal working operations26.7%
Miscellaneous 5.1%
Student abuse 0.1%
Marriage Abuse 0.1%[411]

416. These figures include all types of enforcement action and it is not clear whether the breakdown of enforcement action is the same for immigration as for asylum cases. At first sight, however, the pattern of enforcement appears hard to understand if priorities are ranked according to the harm that people who are in the UK unlawfully cause. This breakdown suggests instead that individuals and families whose addresses are known cause greater harm than those who have deliberately obscured their location, or those employed as illegal workers, or those who have committed domestic violence. Mr Roberts told us that the main priority is removing failed asylum seekers, and perhaps asylum removals make up the majority of removals from residential addresses. Even so it is hard to correlate the pattern of staff deployment with the principle of harm reduction.

417. As we showed in paragraphs 404 to 407, the current level of removals does not even keep pace with the number of known decisions that an individual should leave the UK. The removal strategy is instead tackling part of the pool of illegal immigrants who are already here, whilst failing to stem the flow of newly illegal residents. This failure undermines the credibility of an immigration system based on the fair application and enforcement of clear immigration rules. Throughout our inquiry all those involved from immigration officers, entry clearance officers, IND staff at Croydon and AIT judges have expressed frustration that all their work is rendered at least partially ineffective by the weakness of the enforcement system.

418. There is a further problem. By failing to prioritise the removal of those who are newly illegal, the IND is ensuring that a proportion of those singled out for removal are people who have established themselves in this country, perhaps with children who have known only this country, and who—despite the public's general hostility to illegal migration—command significant community support.

419. A recent example is that of a Thai-born man living in Shetland who successfully appealed against deportation, having been convicted in 2004 for fire-raising, but whose local community campaigned for him to be able to stay.[412] Chris Mullin MP raised the issue of the removal of families with young children who have been in this country for all or most of their lives to countries such as Angola or the Democratic Republic of Congo "where the social fabric has all but collapsed".[413] He also referred to the case of a man from his constituency who was returned to Azerbaijan (despite the fact that the last two Azeris to be removed from Sunderland had been severely beaten on arrival at Baku), but who did not emerge at the airport where his relatives were waiting. Mr Mullin believes this man may now be dead. He suggests that removals like this "make the figures look better, but morally they are difficult to justify". [414]

420. It is difficult to reconcile the removal of vulnerable individuals or those with strong links in the UK with the principle of harm reduction set out by the IND. Whilst continuing action to remove people already living in the UK illegally will of course be necessary—not least to remove those who have entered the UK by clandestine routes—the first priority should be to align the removal system with the decision-making system.

Aligning enforcement with decision-making

421. The first priority must be to avoid adding to the pool of illegal migrants already in the UK. Therefore it is essential that negative decisions are immediately followed up with measures to keep track of applicants and then removal where appropriate. In 2004 the IND refused 32,335 applications for an extension of leave or settlement in 2004[415] and 6,295 in-country immigration appeals were dismissed or withdrawn.[416] And yet only 10,085 non-asylum applicants were removed from the UK as a result of enforcement action in 2004.[417] Of course, some of the people turned down might subsequently have appealed and been allowed to stay, or might have left voluntarily, but otherwise they are being added to the pool of illegal migrants who might or might not be located and removed.

422. To begin with, efforts must be made to ensure that people do not disappear when they receive a negative decision. When IND decides against an application it simply sends out a refusal letter saying that the person is required to leave the country as soon as their existing leave expires (unless they exercise any appeal rights). Likewise all immigration appeals decisions are issued in writing by the AIT, unlike asylum appeals decisions which may be served in person at reporting centres in order to reduce the risk of absconding.[418]

423. Our predecessor Committee in the last Parliament emphasised the desirability of requiring people who are about to receive their asylum appeal decision to attend at a specified location in person to receive that decision. They commented:

    Requiring asylum seekers to attend in person to receive their appeal decision, with their dependants, would make it possible for them, if necessary, to be detained immediately with a view to speedy removal. This measure would increase the rate of removals and reduce the likelihood of failed applicants remaining in the UK in a state of destitution. We urge the Government to bring forward … pilots at the earliest possible opportunity.[419]

In its reply, the Government stated that it "agrees that in some circumstances there will be cases where it would be beneficial to serve appeal decisions in person, particularly to support a faster removal process for those with no right to remain".[420]

424. Home Office instructions to caseworkers set out what should happen in principle when an immigration appeal is withdrawn or dismissed:

    The Presenting Officer's Unit (POU) will forward the file to the relevant workflow processing team or removal & cessation team. These teams will ascertain if the person concerned is removable. The case will then be forwarded to be starred and operational enforcement officers may then attempt to locate the person concerned and remove them from the United Kingdom.[421]

425. The use of the conditional "may" here is illuminating. It is not possible to determine from the published statistics how many appeals are followed by enforcement action, but we suspect not many, given that Dave Roberts clearly told us there will in fact be no attempt to locate individuals.

426. We welcome the commitment of the Home Office to act on our predecessors' recommendation that all asylum seekers should receive decisions on their applications or appeals in person. We believe that this approach should be progressively extended, as swiftly as possible, to all immigration decisions, so that failed applicants can be told about the possibility of appeal if available, how to organise their departure and any support available for this, and the consequences of breaching immigration control including the fact that this can be held against them in any subsequent application.

427. We were told that a more joined-up approach between decision-makers and enforcement is being developed: in some high-risk cases IND caseworkers issue enforcement notices themselves.[422] It is not clear how many cases have been through this streamlined procedure. It seems entirely sensible that the caseworker making a decision should be able to issue enforcement notices. This would be a natural outcome if cases were allocated to caseworkers who 'owned' them all the way through the system.

428. After a decision has been issued, contact must be maintained throughout any appeals until the person leaves the country. The Home Office/DCA/UKvisas Asylum and Immigration High Level Delivery Plan 2005/06 - 2008/09 says that by 2009 they want to see "significantly improved enforcement activity and removal of people living or working illegally in the UK through improved contact management and other measures".[423]

429. Some asylum applicants are subject to reporting requirements, but it is not clear what the compliance rate is.[424] Nor do we know if those subject to reporting requirements are actually more likely to leave the country or be removed than others.

430. In a statement of 13 March 2006, the then Immigration Minister Tony McNulty had set out the plans of the Immigration Service for increased use of electronic monitoring in an immigration context. This can take three forms: telephone reporting using voice recognition technology; tagging; and satellite tracking. Telephone reporting is aimed at lower-risk cases; tagging on higher-risk cases; and "less use" has been made of satellite tracking. Tagging in particular seems to be used in asylum cases only.[425]

431. Continued contact with failed immigration applicants must be improved, whether through their being required to report regularly to a reporting centre or police station, or through electronic monitoring. Reporting or monitoring conditions should however be imposed only for a limited time until the case is concluded by granting leave to remain or by the person leaving the country voluntarily or being removed.

Increasing the number of removals

432. Even once illegal migrants have been identified, there are several potential barriers to removal: not only human rights claims and asylum claims (and where EEA citizens are concerned the fact that they can be removed only in the more limited circumstances set out in European free movement law) but also practical problems of re-documentation and travel arrangements.

433. Dr Khalid Koser, senior policy analyst for the Global Commission on International Migration, told us that he thought removals have not been used as strongly as they might be by the UK.[426]

434. The President of the AIT, Mr Justice Hodge, told us that there is a great need for the Foreign Office to help ensure that people can be returned to their home countries:

    This is entirely my own view and not based on anything much, but the Home Office has got to work with the Foreign Office to get this right. The problem is that the countries will not take lots of people back who might be able to go back. I am sure they do work together, but they need to redouble their efforts. It must be right that if you are likely to be sent home, if you are here wrongly and you are discovered to be here wrongly, then the incentive to come here in anything other than a rightful way is reduced.[427]

435. The Foreign Office is securing an increasing number of readmission agreements with countries to which returns have been difficult. However, we were told during our visit to India that these are being applied only in asylum cases, at least as far as India is concerned. The Government must confirm that readmission agreements are being used to facilitate non-asylum as well as asylum removals.

436. At the moment people who have been removed from the UK are not subject to any bar on returning unless they have been deported (following a criminal offence or because their presence in the UK is "not conducive to the public good"). This means that someone removed from the UK can make an application for a visa the next day to re-enter the UK; or if they are not a visa national (and not applying to come to the UK for longer than six months) they can simply present themselves at a port of entry and apply again to enter, although the Immigration Rules do provide that illegal entry and previous breaches of immigration control are general grounds for refusal of entry clearance and leave to enter.[428] 3,497 (3%) of the 108,904 people who were removed from the UK between November 2003 and September 2005 had already been removed once or more, and one of these had been removed on seven separate occasions,[429] although it is not clear if these people had re-entered the UK clandestinely or with leave.

437. Anyone who has had to be forcibly removed from the UK because they did not comply with a notice to leave the country, not just those who have been deported, should be banned from returning to the UK for a set period. The ban could be automatic, or there could be a presumption in favour of a ban or even simply the option of imposing one. The length of this ban or presumption should reflect the degree of abuse. A ban or the possibility of one would act as a disincentive to breach the Immigration Rules, would encourage voluntary departure on receipt of a notice to leave the UK because that would not result in a ban, and might help to address the "revolving door" phenomenon whereby people who have already been removed once or more return and are then removed again.

438. Enforcement must also be known to be effective.[430] At the moment, quite apart from the fact that there is little expectation that any enforcement action would be taken, we suspect that few people are aware of the consequences of what could happen to them. We were told, however, of a new publicity campaign in India called "The Only Way is the Legal Way" which aims to spread information about how people can lawfully come to the UK, but also to highlight the forgery and fraud detection work in visa sections.[431] On the other hand, there are a number of schemes which reward those with a good immigration history. For example, 58% of posts have introduced a Fast-Track facility for frequent travellers (and those posts had seen a 73% increase in productivity compared to those posts that did not have Fast-Track).[432]

439. The immigration system already rewards people with a good immigration history, by for instance offering them a fast-track visa application process. The Government should also make people aware of the consequences of illegal immigration, not only through better information for unsuccessful applicants but also through widespread advertisements, including in workplaces, colleges, benefits offices and hospitals.

440. The Government recognises the benefit of encouraging voluntary returns over forced removals. Although most of the emphasis has been on voluntary returns of asylum seekers, there is also a programme called Assisted Voluntary Return for Irregular Migrants (AVRIM), introduced in 2004 to assist irregular migrants who have not sought asylum to return to their country of origin. 667 people have so far been assisted under this programme, but promoting the scheme is described as "challenging".[433] Voluntary returns schemes for those who have not sought asylum should be prominently referred to in refusal letters, with details of whom to contact for further information.

441. It is clearly not necessary to take enforcement action against those who leave the country voluntarily. Many probably do so, not least to avoid jeopardising their future ability to travel to the UK. Under the system we envisage, failed applicants who promised to leave the UK voluntarily should continue to be allowed to do so, and their departure from the UK monitored. To do so efficiently will require the re-establishment of embarkation controls.

Reintroducing embarkation controls

442. In 1994, the Government decided to end the embarkation controls for passengers travelling from ferry ports and small ports to destinations within the European Union, meaning that 40% of departing passengers were not being seen by an immigration officer. The remaining embarkation controls were removed on 16 March 1998 as it was decided that they were "an inefficient use of resources and that they contribute little to the integrity of the immigration control", and that in any case "experience has shown that the use of intelligence and denunciatory information is the most effective tool against illegal immigration". The aim was to replace them with a targeted, intelligence-led approach creating a more efficient and effective control.[434]

443. As a result, there is no way of telling how many people have left the UK compared even with the numbers of arrivals, let alone compared with the number who should have left. Also the door is opened to frauds such as the one we were told of in Nigeria, under which people who are in the UK as visitors and want to stay for longer than six months send back their passports in order to get a fraudulent Nigerian entry stamp which makes it look as if they left the UK; they can then apply under the fast-track process for frequent travellers in which fewer checks are made. We were told that the same problem has recently surfaced in Islamabad too, although there they are tackling the problem by requiring applicants to collect their passports themselves.

444. In the previous Parliament our predecessor Committee more than once called for the reintroduction of embarkation controls.[435] Throughout this inquiry witnesses from across the spectrum have repeated this call.[436] We have heard from no-one who disagrees with it.

445. The Government says that it will start electronically recording people's departure from the UK as part of the e-Borders programme which is scheduled to begin in 2008 and go through to about 2014 or 2015.[437] We presume this means that embarkation controls will be reintroduced. The Five Year Plan for immigration and asylum states that e-Borders technology will mean that people's departure from the country is recorded, which "will mean that we will know who has overstayed in the UK, which will help us target our immigration checks." This is intended to be part of an "audit trail" of passenger movements both in and out of the UK, but IND recognise that there may be difficulties matching the information captured on departure accurately against the identity in which the passenger was granted leave.[438]

446. The danger of re-introducing embarkation controls is that it might encourage people to stay illicitly rather than risk being caught at the border for overstaying. However, if passports were simply scanned in order for the person's record to be marked up, and whatever the result the person was allowed to leave, it should then be apparent if the person had overstayed. This could be used as a ground for refusing any subsequent application to come to the UK; if they never wanted to come back to the UK it would be irrelevant.

447. The next stage would be to use the embarkation checks to identify and trace all those who should have left but have not.

448. We understand that the introduction of e-Borders will effectively mean the reintroduction of embarkation controls. We welcome this development and urge its swift and effective completion. However, the Government must also have a clear strategy for acting on the information collected. Firstly, it must be used in subsequent applications: even scanning the passport so that the database shows the person had left and on time would be immensely valuable to anyone deciding a subsequent application. Secondly, it must be used to identify those who entered the country legitimately but have overstayed their visa without attempting to regularise their position.

Gathering information

449. The Immigration Service cannot tackle the problem of illegal migrants alone. Other bodies, including the police, marriage registrars, tax authorities, local authorities, employers and education sector, all have a responsibility too.

450. There are various ways in which the immigration authorities might come to know of people who are living in the UK in breach of the immigration laws. The police can ask people for evidence of immigration status or might receive anonymous information; marriage registrars are under a duty to report suspicious marriages or civil partnerships to the Home Office;[439] local authorities, employers and tax authorities may be required to provide information to the immigration authorities;[440] and the police and immigration officers have the power to enter premises to search for immigration offenders.[441] Members of the public might also contact the Home Office with allegations, and these go to the Managed Migration Intelligence Unit for investigation.[442] The IND told us "it is not possible to estimate how many of these allegations were acted upon and the subsequent outcome". However, they could tell us that from 1 April 2005 until 5 February 2006, 1891 people were arrested "wholly or partly as a result of denunciatory information of whom 690 (37%) were failed asylum seekers".[443]

451. Even more information will be available to IND in the future. Employers and colleges will be under a duty to tell IND about people who leave their job or course;[444] and electronic embarkation controls (see paragraph 455 to 448 above) could be used to provide automatic alerts of people whose leave has expired but who are not shown as having left the UK.

452. All information about possible overstayers, whether from database alerts, tip-offs from members of the public or information provided by police, registrars, tax authorities, local authorities, employers or colleges must be followed up with investigation and, if necessary, enforcement action. Data on following up this information must be gathered to measure the IND's effectiveness.

Illegal working

453. The employment of illegal workers should be one of the main targets for action against illegal migrants who are already living illegally in the UK. There is a growing recognition that the Immigration Service cannot do this alone. It is leading the Joint Workplace Enforcement pilot (JWEP), which is "exploring the scope for closer co-ordinated working, including intelligence sharing, between Government workplace enforcement departments to tackle both the use and exploitation of illegal migrant workers". The pilot group consists of enforcement and intelligence officials from across Government (the Immigration Service, HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Trade and Industry, the Health and Safety Executive and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority), "to share information and co-ordinate operations against employers, employment agencies, labour providers and any type of business who are involved in the deliberate use or supply of illegal migrant workers". So far the JWEP has agreed protocols with all the Departments working with it, and its work has led to one prosecution.[445] We are told that an initial evaluation of the pilot will be taking place "shortly".[446]

454. When we asked the Chairman of the Association of Labour Providers, Mark Boleat, where he would place a hypothetical 100 extra staff to prevent illegal working, he replied "entirely on tax".[447] He argued that employers of illegal labour avoided paying tax, thus cutting costs by 40%, and suggested that the tax authorities should target customers of labour providers, such as large food plants, who were able to undercut competitors by employing illegal labour.[448] In his written evidence he was very critical of the lack of enforcement activity by the tax authorities "even where there is blatant tax evasion which is reported to them", suggesting that they were ineffective at tackling those who were operating entirely outside the tax system.[449] HM Revenue and Customs has been making some efforts to tackle income tax fraud in the informal economy: a new offence of evading Income Tax was introduced from 1 January 2001 (codified in Section 144 of the Finance Act 2000) and in addition, "forty two new fraud investigators were recruited in 2001 to investigate cases involving the new offence."[450] However, the results of these appear to be limited.[451]

455. Tackling tax and national insurance evasion should become a central feature of the drive against the employment of illegal labour, and the tax authorities must make much greater efforts to tackle these in the informal economy. Enforcement work on tax and national insurance should take place in conjunction with all the other legal measures available to tackle abuse in the informal labour market. As well as ensuring that employers complied with their legal obligations, it would reduce the financial advantages of employing illegal workers.

456. The ease with which employers can take on people who do not have the right to work in the UK, particularly where sub-contractors are involved, was demonstrated in May this year, when five Nigerians were detained after turning up to work as agency cleaners at the IND. They did not have the right to work, but all of them had apparently worked there before.[452]

457. We were told that there is a large number of Zimbabweans in the UK who are forced into supporting themselves through working illegally. Dr JoAnn McGregor of the University of Reading suggested that the key problems in the care industry, where many Zimbabweans work both legally and illegally, are unscrupulous employers and the "cascading sub-contracting chains" which make it very difficult to say who is the employer.[453] Christine Lee, a solicitor who represents many Chinese employers in the UK, told us that because of the shortage of properly-trained Chinese chefs in the UK, a number of employers turn a blind eye to illegal working.[454]

458. One of the problems is that there is no easy way for employers to verify whether or not a person has the right to work in the UK. National Insurance numbers (NINos), for example, are not proof of the right to work in the UK, partly because they are not withdrawn if a person loses the right to work in the UK or when their leave expires.

459. Certain documents or combinations of documents are considered sufficient to fulfil employers' duties (under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996) to check that potential employees are allowed to work in the UK. Passports (with an appropriate endorsement if necessary) are enough on their own; a NINo needs to be accompanied by another document such as a full UK birth certificate. But even these cannot be conclusive proof: for instance employers cannot be expected to recognise forgeries. And the requirements are not well understood, applied or enforced despite the Home Office guidance to employers (available in both summary and comprehensive form), and the Employers' Helpline which advises on the legislation.[455]

460. NINos appear to cause particular problems. Jonathan Portes, Chief Economist at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), explained to us the purpose of NINo and how they are issued:

    The important point for us is that NINos (national insurance numbers) are an internal reference number that lets us link an individual with their social security, or their child support, or their tax or their contribution record. It is not proof of identity, and it is not supposed to be proof that you are entitled to work. The interviewing process that we go through is basically about identity fraud. It is to ensure you are who you say you are. It is not supposed to provide a rigorous check on immigration status. There can be quite legitimate reasons why you might require a NINo even if you are not entitled to work in this country. If we do become, or if Jobcentre Plus, who do the NINo allocation process, do become aware of right to work or immigration irregularities - if it becomes obvious that somebody is not entitled to work where there is good grounds for them believing they are not entitled to work and it is pretty clear that the purpose of their applying for NINo is because they are going to work - then we do report that to the appropriate authorities; but it is important to recognise that NINos are not just about the right to work and that is not what they are there for.[456]

461. A NINo is needed in order to claim most social security benefits and tax credits.[457] Because of the complicated position of couples with mixed immigration status there have been situations where even a person who is not allowed to have recourse to public funds was required to get a NINo, but the guidance on this has recently been changed.[458]

462. Since we took evidence from Mr Portes, it has emerged that National Insurance numbers (NINos) are issued without any check on immigration status or right to work or to benefits. We were very concerned by the Times report that DWP guidance from July 2005 (still in force) instructs Jobcentre staff to issue NINos even when there is evidence that immigration status has been falsified. The guidance says:

    Where DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) is satisfied as to the individual's identity, a NI number would be issued in this situation even if we have suspicions around his immigration status ... Any prosecution action in respect of the falsified immigration documentation would be the responsibility of IND - NOT DWP.[459]

463. The total number of NINo registrations to overseas nationals in 2004/05 was 440,000, an increase of 69,000 (19%) on 2003/04.[460] The Home Office told us that Jobcentre Plus colleagues can themselves check the immigration status of applicants, under a National Partnership Agreement for data sharing, and that there is a network of contacts in both departments to facilitate data-sharing at a local level.[461] We have also been told the theory of what happens when the IND is alerted to a possible immigration offence:

    Where IND receives intelligence that an immigration offence has been committed, they are centrally recorded, considered and disseminated for IND intelligence units to act upon at the earliest possible opportunity. Intelligence officers will decide whether to refer cases for action through their local Tasking and Co-ordinating Groups whose priorities are set by a control framework at the Senior Managers Tactical and Tasking Group. Even where no action is taken, the information is added to the IND intelligence database, Mycroft. This is helping to increase the body of knowledge that IND has about all areas of abuse of the system and may, where appropriate, be used at a later date.[462]

We have not been told how often any of this happens in practice.

464. According to DWP figures, approximately 3,300 cases were referred to IND during 2005-2006. This figure is made up of 2,500 relating to apparent immigration offenders (overstayers, or no right to employment) where NINos were issued and IND notified; and approximately 800 cases where it appeared that false documentation was used as a result of which NINos were refused and details of the immigration offence were passed to the IND. The IND has been unable to tell us about the action they took to follow up this information.[463]

465. Ministers have decided to introduce a new "right to work" requirement for NINo applications:

    "From July 2006 the Department for Work and Pensions will introduce a "right to work" condition into Jobcentre Plus's National Insurance Numbers (NINOs) allocation and decision making process for employment related applications... Any individual applying for a NINO in connection with employment who does not have the right to work here legally will be refused one. This change follows a review conducted by the Department into the existing legislation governing the allocation of NINOs."[464]

466. It is not clear how individuals will prove to the DWP that they have the right to work in the UK, nor whether those who fail to prove it will be reported to the IND for investigation and possible enforcement action. The DWP will continue to issue NINos in some circumstances to people who are not entitled to claim public funds, partly because they will sometimes have the right to work in the UK. And NINos will not be removed from people when they no longer have the right to live or work in the country.[465]

467. We welcome the proposed "right to work" condition for people applying for National Insurance numbers (NINos). We recommend that the Government also consider withdrawing NINos from people who no longer have the right to work in the UK.

468. The difficulty of proving immigration status also causes problems the other way round, according to evidence from ILPA: "DWP offices have been treating people who cannot provide up to date IND acknowledgment of their application for leave to remain as overstayers and thus wrongly refusing them benefits". [466]

469. The Government has said it will in the future require all those in the country for more than three months to carry residence permits which will act as identity cards. In its Five Year Plan for immigration and asylum it said that "These will provide a simple and secure means of verifying identity, helping us tackle illegal working, organised crime, terrorist activity, identity theft, and fraudulent access to public services."[467] The Identity Cards Act 2006 provides for a National Identity Register for everyone resident in the UK for three months or more, which would contain information on a person's immigration status.

470. There should be a single database which clearly shows a person's immigration status and right to work and claim benefits. We note that the Government's National Identity Register is intended to fulfil this function. Employment and access to services could be made conditional on a satisfactory check against such a database.

A regularisation scheme?

471. Even if removal efforts are stepped up, it is hard to see that all illegal migrants will be removed. It was suggested to us that in the care sector in particular it could cause grave problems and upset to have employees removed in immigration raids.[468] Many commentators, trade unionists, NGOs and academics have suggested that the only way to deal with illegal migrants already living in the UK is to regularise their status. Jack Dromey, Deputy General Secretary of the TGWU, is reported as saying:

    Yes it is true that there are probably half a million here without documents. The question is what we do about that? They live in fear of a knock on the door and they are exploited by too many employers. What we need therefore is a sensible approach which does not criminalise those good men and women. You can't deport half a million workers. Who would clean? Who would cook? Who would pick in our fields? The time has come for a debate around an amnesty for those workers.[469]

472. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that regularising these people and bringing them into the tax system could bring the Treasury around £1 billion a year, whereas deporting them all could cost around £4.7 billion. Its director, Nick Pearce, said,

    Nobody likes illegal immigration. And the subject is a deeply difficult one for politicians to tackle. But the bare truth is that we are not going to deport hundreds of thousands of people from the UK. Our economy would shrink and we would notice it straight away in uncleaned offices, dirty streets and unstaffed pubs and clubs. So we have a choice: make people live in the shadows, exploited and fearful for the future; or bring them into the mainstream, to pay taxes and live and honest life.[470]

473. In its evidence to us, the IPPR suggests that "simply getting tough is unlikely to be effective in tackling irregular migration…Regularisation and the implementation of formal channels for low-skilled migration is a more realistic approach than denying the need for low-skilled migrants or being overconfident about the ability to control them".[471]

474. As Dr Khalid Koser of the Global Commission for International Migration pointed out to us, "The grave argument against regularisation…is the question of whether this is a magnet". If I live in Kosovo and I know that you are going to have a regularisation next year then I am going to come in time to have it.[472] David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, was reported as saying that it would be impossible to have an amnesty without identity cards and a clean data base.[473] The pressure group MigrationWatch UK is opposed to any amnesty.[474]

475. Many countries have had or are considering widespread regularisation programmes. In the USA, President Bush's Fair and Secure Immigration Reform will allow those currently living irregularly in the US to apply for three-year work permits that are renewable for a further three years. On allowing long-term illegal immigrants a "path to citizenship", Mr Bush said this was not an amnesty but a "rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a programme of mass deportation".[475]

476. Spain has just completed its fifth regularisation programme. The novel approach of this latest effort, as part of a much broader programme including reforms to border controls, workplace inspections and removals, has received considerable praise.[476]

477. An analysis of the concept, history and outcomes of regularisation programmes is given in a Global Commission on International Migration paper. It has mixed conclusions about such programmes: "The possibility of obtaining legal status is a necessary condition to combat irregular migration, but it is not sufficient. Regularization needs to be combined with tighter border controls, employer sanctions and law enforcement" and also removal possibilities for those who do not qualify for regularisation. It concludes that "occasional regularization programmes do not bring sustainable results in terms of minimizing irregular migrant populations or preventing further irregular arrivals" but that ongoing regularisation programmes "seem to be a more effective policy option". Long-term permits in its view support upward mobility, taxing and family reunion: the paper suggests three years in the first instance. [477]

478. The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, Liam Byrne MP, did not rule out the possibility of an amnesty when he appeared before us on 13 June,[478] but the Prime Minister's official spokesman said the next day that there were "no plans" for an amnesty.[479]

479. We have two concerns about the current discussions of a possible amnesty. The first is that any amnesty which is introduced before the enforcement of immigration controls is working satisfactorily would be likely to encourage further illegal immigration and achieve little lasting benefit. The experience of other countries lends some support to this. The second concern is that by encouraging the view that breaches of the immigration rules may in some way be rewarded, confidence in the immigration system may be diminished. Having considered the arguments for and against, we do not consider that an amnesty would be appropriate or helpful in the current situation.

393   Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce Back

394   Q 123, 10 January 2006, raising the example of the US/Mexico border and the German Gastarbeiter scheme. Back

395   Q 96, 10 January 2006 Back

396   Q 360, 24 January 2006 Back

397   Ev 393, para 4, HC 775-III Back

398   Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2004, Cm 6690, Table 6.2 Back

399   Q 810, 16 May 2006 Back

400   Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2004, Cm 6690, Table 4.1 Back

401   Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2004, Cm 6690, Table 7.1  Back

402   Comptroller and Auditor General's Report, Returning failed asylum applicants, HC (2005-06) 76, para. 2.5; Committee of Public Accounts, Thirty-fourth Report of Session 2005-06, Returning failed asylum applicants,HC 620, para. 1 Back

403   Q 812, 16 May 2006 Back

404   Qq 917-21, 23 May 2006 Back

405   Home Office Secure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain (Cm 5387) (2001) Back

406   Home Affairs Committee Minutes of Evidence for Wednesday 18 September 2002 2001-02 HC 1186 Q86, Q88; see also Home Affairs Committee Fourth Report of Session 2002-03, Asylum Removals, HC 654-I, especially pp. 13-14 Back

407   Frank Düvell and Bill Jordan, 'Immigration control and the management of economic migration in the United Kingdom: organisational culture, implementation, enforcement and identity processes in public services', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies vol. 29 no. 2, March 2003, 299 at 316 Back

408   Qq 813 and 844, 16 May 2006 Back

409   Ev 279, para 1, HC 775-III Back

410   Ev 392, para. 2.5, HC 775-III Back

411   Ev 263, HC 775-III Back

412   ''Victory for islanders as Thai avoids deportation", Telegraph, 8 July 2006 Back

413   Ev 331, HC 775-III  Back

414   Ev 390, HC 775-III Back

415   Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2004, Cm 6690, Table 4.1 Back

416   Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2004, Cm 6690, Table 7.1  Back

417   Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2004, Cm 6690, Table 6.2 Back

418   The IND told us that this is a feature of the New Asylum Model, which at the moment applies to about 10% of new asylum claims but by March 2007 will apply to all new non-detained asylum cases: Ev 405, para 2, HC 775-III Back

419   Home Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2003-04, Asylum Applications (HC 218-I), para 236 Back

420   Government Reply to Second Report of the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2003-04 (Cm 6166),p 28 Back

421   Home Office Immigration Directorates' Instructions Ch. 20 s. 1 para. 3.3 Back

422   Ev 51, para 63, HC 775-II Back

423   p. 3 Back

424   Ev 391-2, HC 775-III Back

425   HC Deb 13 March 2006 cols 88-90WS Back

426   Q 115, 10 January 2006 Back

427   Q 360, 24 January 2006 Back

428   Immigration Rules (HC 395 of Session 1993-94, as amended) para 320(11) and (12) Back

429   Home Office response to Freedom of Information request, 5 December 2005 Back

430   See Q 212, 17 January 2006 Back

431   Q 408, 7 March 2006 Back

432   Ev 377, HC 775-III Back

433   Ev 393, HC 775-III Back

434   HC Deb 16 March 1998 col 506-7W Back

435   Home Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2002-03, Asylum Removals, HC 654, para 27, and Second Report of Session 2003-04, Asylum Applications, HC 218-I, para 230 Back

436   For example Q 160, 10 January 2006 and Q 211, 17 January 2006  Back

437   Q 447, 7 March 2006 Back

438   Ev 62, HC 775-II Back

439   Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 s. 24 check Back

440   Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 ss. 129-138 Back

441   Immigration Act 1971 s. 28, as amended by s. 131 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999  Back

442   Ev 62, paras 162-4, HC 775-II Back

443   Ev 253, HC 775-III Back

444   Home Office, A Points-Based System: Making Migration Work for Britain, Cm 6741, March 2006, p. 19 ff. Back

445   Ev 393, para 5, HC 775-III Back

446   Ev 279 para 3, HC 775-III Back

447   Q 757, 16 May 2006 Back

448   Qq 751-752, 16 May 2006 Back

449   Ev 2372, para 29, HC 775-III Back

450   Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Tackling fraud against the Inland Revenue, 28 February 2003 HC 429 of Session 2002-2003 p 26.The report provides a checklist of the recommendations made in the Grabiner Report (HM Treasury, The informal economy: a report by Lord Grabiner QC, March 2000) and the Government's response in each case. Back

451   Public Accounts Committee, First report of Session 2003-04, Tackling fraud against the Inland Revenue, HC 62, p. 4 Back

452   'Illegals arrested at Home Office', BBC news online, 19 May 2006: Channel 4 News on Friday 19 May reported that each of the five individuals has worked at the IND on a number of occasions, one of them for about three years.The company that supplied the cleaners, Techclean, also told Channel 4 News that four had had their passports and National Insurance cards checked and had visa entry details.The fifth man apparently had a letter from the immigration service confirming his right to work in the UK: 'Reid "misled public over illegal immigrants"', Independent, 22 May 2006 Back

453   Q 551 and Qq 555-6, 28 March 2006 Back

454   Q 606, 28 March 2006 Back

455 .The concerns of Chinese employers were described to us by Christine Lee, a solicitor representing the Chinese community: Qq 567-9 and Q 578, 28 March 2006 Back

456   Q801, 16 May 2006 Back

457   Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997 - see House of Commons Library Research Paper 96/107 Back

458   Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Wilson CH/3801/04.See DWP DMG Letter 17/05, issued on 20 December 2005: Back

459   'Your documents are forged…but you will still get a number', Times 1 June 2006 Back

460   Department for Work and Pensions, National Insurance Number Allocations to Overseas Nationals Entering the UK, 2005 Back

461   Ev 384, HC 775-III Back

462   Ev 384, HC 775-III Back

463   Ev 408, HC 775-III Back

464   HC Deb 5 June 2006 cc12-13WS Back

465   Ev 404, HC 775-III Back

466   Ev 72, HC 775-II Back

467   Home Office, Controlling our borders: Making migration work for Britain - Five year strategy for asylum and immigration, Cm 6472, February 2005, para. 63 Back

468   Q 557, 28 March 2006 Back

469   'Amnesty call over illegal workers', BBC news online, 20 May 2006 Back

470   IPPR press release, 'Legal work for illegal workers could raise £1 billion', 31 March 2006 Back

471   Ev 79, HC 775-II Back

472   Q 116, 10 January 2006 Back

473   The Independent, 15 June 2006, p33 Back

474   Migration Watch UK, Ten MigrationWatch Achievements 7 May 2006 and An Amnesty of Illegal Immigrants? 21 May 2006.See also Q 164, 10 January 2006 Back

475   'Bush unveils immigration reforms', BBC news online,16 May 2006 Back

476   Arango J and Jachimowicz M, 'Regularising Immigrants in Spain: A New Approach', Migration Information Source, 2005.See 'Irregular migration in the UK: an ippr FactFile, April 2006, pp. 19-20 Back

477   Aspasia Papadopoulou, 'Regularization programmes: an effective instrument of migration policy?', Global Migration Perspectives No. 33, May 2005 Back

478   Q 1225, 13 June 2006 Back

479  Back

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