Home secretary John Reid has announced plans to transform the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) to make the UK immigration system more effective.
Any businesses employing illegal workers will be penalised and a points-based entry system will enable students and potential workers to stay under “managed migration,” Reid said.
The directorate’s performance will be assessed by an immigration regulator – a newly created post – and the government will consult on establishing a migration advisory committee to offer guidance about skills gaps.
The Home Office report stated: “We recognise that our proposals to strengthen checks on identity and tackle illegal working may place some additional burdens on business. We will work in partnership with those concerned to minimise these.”
The Home Office pledged to strengthen leadership and management within the IND, simplify existing processes and develop stronger strategic partnerships with organisations and other government bodies.
The report stated that the Home Office would work to develop skills and training across the IND, set clear objectives and standards for managers, review the current performance system and link appraisals with organisational aims.
As part of the crackdown on illegal workers the government will work with employer organisations to ensure firms know their responsibilities and have robust systems in place to prevent the employment of illegal workers, the report stated.
In addition, rogue employers will be penalised and, under the points-based system, employers will have to take greater responsibility for any employees they want to bring to the UK. The regulations will also require legitimate migrants who want to work in the UK to develop their English language skills
But unions have warned that the new regulations could turn employers into immigration police.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Requiring all employers to police immigration status would simply give good employers more red tape, while giving bad employers more power to exploit migrant workers. What the government must do is crack down on rogue employers.”
‘Migrant workers need the same rights as the rest of us,” Barber said.
CBI deputy director-general John Cridland said it was vital for the government to draw a clear distinction between employers who unknowingly employ illegal immigrants.
“While the small minority of rogue employers who deliberately hire illegal workers must have the book thrown at them, those who unwittingly employ them must be supported,” he said.
“The government will have to work hard to convince employers that it is going after the real culprits for illegal working. Employers are willing to play a role in ensuring the system works, but they cannot be held responsible in law for innocent and unavoidable mistakes.”