Rebecca Flood, Express, February 15, 2017
Almost 27,000 people have had their UK licences voided since 2014 in the crackdown on undocumented migrants.
Statistics show licenses found on illegal migrants jumped 22 per cent from 2015 to 2016.
While the majority of migrants entered the country legally and obtained a licence through the proper channels, many then went on to overstay their visa.
After a passport, a UK driving license is the second most recognised form of ID and is widely accepted when applying for jobs, opening bank accounts, and signing tenancy agreements.
In the first month of the crackdown, in July 2014, when the Home Office gave the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) the powers to revoke licences, 3,500 licenses revoked.
The following year it was 9,700, and in 2016 that figure rose to 11,900.
As part of a package of measures designed to make it harder for illegal migrants to fly under the radar of the authorities, the UK Immigration Act 2014 time to create a “hostile environment” for them in the UK.
As well as the licence powers, other initiatives included Right to Rent checks by landlords, ensuring tenants have the right to live and work in the UK legally, an annual ‘health surcharge’ of between £150 and £200 towards the NHS for migrants staying longer than six months.
Also included was new powers to remove “harmful” migrants facing deportation before they can lodge an appeal.
But despite the increased checks and balances, the move was still criticised as being too lenient as when a license is revoked, the onus is on the authorities rather than the individual.
The process states the Home Office notifies the DVLA when somebody is found to be living illegally in the UK, they then receive a letter informing them their licence will be revoked and they have 10 days to appeal.
When the licence is voided the driver’s details go on to the Police National Computer, and any officer doing a licence check will be informed, and can call immigration officers if caught.
But the responsibility ultimately lies with the driver to return their licence to the DVLA.
Chris Hobbs, a former special branch officer in border controls, said: “How likely is it for that driver to be stopped bearing in mind the number of traffic police has been hugely reduced?
“There are all sorts of issues around stopping vehicles and asking for details, you have to have a valid reason to do that.”
In response the Home Office introduced new measures last year giving immigration officers and police the power to search people and buildings for UK driving licences – revoked or not – of illegal immigrants and seize them.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “This will help ensure revoked licences are removed from circulation.
“We are making it harder for illegal migrants to live in the UK – as these figures show.”