Immigration Bill: New Powers for Navy to Stop Migrants

Tim Ross, Telegraph, October 10, 2015

The Royal Navy will target ships suspected of being used to smuggle illegal migrants into Britain, under a major crackdown to be outlined this week.

New powers to stop and search suspect vessels in British waters will be given to the police, Navy and Border Force officers in the Immigration Bill, which MPs will debate for the first time on Tuesday.

The measures are part of a wide ranging plan to tackle illegal immigration, including action to stop illicit migrants working in takeaway food outlets, renting private properties, and opening bank accounts.

The Bill is intended to make Britain a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants and anyone who encourages them to come to the UK.

The proposed new laws come at a critical time for Britain’s border security and immigration controls. Ministers are under pressure to secure the border in the face of a large rise in the numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe and the UK from Africa.

At the heart of the Bill is a package of measures to tighten border security. At present, the Border Force has no power to target boats in British waters that officers suspect of helping illegal migrants enter Britain.

The Border Force, which is the Home Office’s frontline border control service, has a fleet of cutters but officers on board must focus on enforcing customs laws and cannot tackle immigration crimes, even if they find evidence of people smuggling.

The Bill will give Border Force officers, the police and the Navy new powers to stop, board, divert or detain a vessel suspected of being used to facilitate illegal immigration. Officers will also be given powers to search a suspect ship and anyone on board–and to use “reasonable force” to seize evidence and arrest suspected offenders.

James Brokenshire, the Immigration Minister, said the government would always act to stop people gaining entry to Britain who were “not conducive to the public good”.

“Security at the border is our priority and we need our officers to have powers to stop these criminal gangs from attempting to smuggle people into Britain,” he said.

Other measures in the Bill will address:

:: Illegal working. A new criminal offence will be created of “illegal working” to target migrants working without the right paperwork, along with a tougher criminal offence for employers who refuse to check whether their employees have a right to work in the UK.

:: Renting accommodation. A new criminal offence will be created to stop rogue landlords who make profits from renting to illegal migrants, and new rules will make it easier for legitimate landlords to evict illegal migrants from their properties.

:: Driving. A new offence of driving while an illegal migrant will be created, enabling enforcement officers to confiscate migrants’ vehicles.

:: Enforcement powers. Immigration officers will have new powers to search for and seize evidence of illegal working, such as pay slips or time sheets.

:: Deportations. Extending “deport first, appeal later” rules will make it easier to remove migrants who have no right to be in the UK. People whose human rights claims have failed will have to appeal from outside the UK in future, unless they will suffer “serious, irreversible harm” abroad.

:: Electronic tagging. A new power will allow the Home Office to require the courts to fit foreign offenders with satellite-tracking tags when they are released on immigration bail, while waiting to be deported.

:: Speaking English. All public sector employees who work in “customer-facing” roles will be required to have fluent English language skills or be moved to back office work.

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