The Home Office have turned to banks to help in their ongoing battle to get control of the UK’s immigration issues.
As part of Teresa May’s plan to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants, banks will now be required to ensure that all account holders are entitled to be in the UK. They will also have the power to shut down any accounts held by those not granted asylum, facing deportation or visa overstayers. Removing access to money and banking services will make staying in the UK much harder according to Home Office officials.
The new legislation which comes into force in January 2018, is part of the Immigration Act 2016, agreed in Parliament in December 2016. Banks have been required to check the immigration status of all those applying for a new account since 2014, but this latest development will target those who have been living in the UK for much longer.
Cifas (the fraud prevention organisation) will provide banks with a list of known illegal immigrants. All account holders will be checked against this list, and those found to be in breach will find that their account has been frozen or will be reported to the Home Office.
The Home Office expects to root out 6,000 people in the first year of using this method, who stated it was “part of our ongoing work to tackle illegal migration.”
But criticisms of the new plan are rife, many believe that banks should not be trusted with such a delicate matter. Mistakes could affect the finances of those living here legally, and problems could prove difficult to rectify. The Home Office has recently come under fire for wrongly sending out deportation demands to people who are eligible to stay in the UK.
Banks must check all established account holders, which is a mammoth task. The Guardian states that 70 million account investigations will take place every quarter.
A Home Office spokesperson described the new legislation as “fair but firm”.