The UK government will require banks and building societies to carry out immigration checks on 70m current accounts as part of the plan to create a “hostile environment” for irregular immigrants in Britain, the Guardian has revealed.
The checks to be carried out from January next year, are meant to help the Home Office identify 6,000 visa overstayers, failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders facing deportation in the first year of the checks.
The Guardian reported that the checks will be carried out quarterly.
The government plans to close down or freeze the accounts of identified irregular immigrants “to make it harder for them to establish or maintain a settled life in the UK”.
Officials say freezing accounts that hold significant sums ‘will create a powerful incentive [for those involved] to agree to voluntary departure’ so they can secure their money once they have left the country.
Financial institutions will be provided with a list from anti-fraud organisation Cifas on people who are liable for removal or deportation from the UK or who have absconded from immigration control. The organisations will then have to report any names they discover and freeze or close the accounts.
Immigration welfare campaigners have however warned that the Home Office’s record meant it could not be trusted to implement the system properly.
Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), criticised the move: “The government’s own record shows it cannot be trusted even to implement this system properly. Immigration status is very complex, and the Home Office consistently gives out incorrect information and guidance.
“Migrants and ethnic minorities with every right to be here will be affected by the imposition of these new checks.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are developing an immigration system which is fair to people who are here legally, but firm with those who break the rules. Everyone in society can play their part in tackling illegal migration.
“As approved by Parliament in December 2016, from January banks and building societies will be required to carry out regular checks on the immigration status of all current account holders against the details of known illegal migrants to establish whether their customers are known to be in the UK unlawfully.
“This is part of our ongoing work to tackle illegal migration. People who are here legally will be unaffected.”