Police could seize illegal workers’ wages under Tory plans.
Police would be able to seize the wages of illegal workers as proceeds of crime under government plans to be set out in next week’s Queen’s Speech.
PM David Cameron will say on Thursday that it has become “too easy” for migrants not entitled to be in the country to exploit loopholes.
Working illegally in the UK will also become a criminal offence as part of the proposed crackdown.
Labour said not enough was being done to protect the country’s borders.
At the moment, firms can be fined up to £20,000 for employing illegal workers.
In future, ministers want anyone who has entered the UK illegally or overstayed their visas to be liable to face prosecution if they seek work, and to have their pay confiscated.
The proposal forms part of what the prime minister will say is a “tougher but fairer” approach to immigration that will be adopted by the Conservative government.
However, the scale of the challenge facing ministers in reducing levels of legal immigration will be highlighted again on Thursday when the latest official figures on net migration are published.
‘Control and reduce’
Net migration rose to 298,000 in the year to September 2014, well above the levels anticipated by the Conservatives – who set a goal before the 2010 election of reducing numbers to less than 100,000, a target they acknowledge they have failed to meet.
Mr Cameron will see first-hand efforts to combat illegal immigration on Thursday when he visits a premises in London shortly after it has been raided by immigration officials.
He will say the government is determined to “control and reduce” immigration, saying criminalising illegal workers must go hand-in-hand with other measures to lower demand for migrant labour, such as boosting the skills of UK workers.
The government says depriving illegal migrants of their wages will make it harder for them to remain in the UK.
The new criminal offence of illegal working will apply to migrants who have entered the country illegally and also those who came to the country legally but are in breach of their conditions or have overstayed.
At the moment, migrants with current leave to remain who are working illegally in breach of their conditions may be prosecuted and are liable, if convicted, to a six months’ custodial sentence and-or an unlimited fine.
But migrants who entered the UK illegally or have overstayed their leave are not subject to the same sanctions, and the police do not have the same powers of confiscation in all cases.
Mr Cameron will say that “making Britain a less attractive place to come and work illegally” is a crucial part of a fair immigration policy – adding that a “strong country is one that controls immigration… not one that pulls up the drawbridge”.
“The truth is it has been too easy to work illegally and employ illegal workers here,” he will say in a speech in London.
“So we’ll take a radical step – we’ll make illegal working a criminal offence in its own right.
“That means wages paid to illegal migrants will be seized as proceeds of crime… and businesses will be told when their workers’ visas expire… So if you’re involved in illegal working – employer or employee – you’re breaking the law.”
Among other measures set to feature in a forthcoming Immigration Bill, the “deport first, appeal later” principle will be extended to all non-asylum cases, there will be new powers for councils to deal with unscrupulous landlords and to evict illegal migrants more quickly, while all foreign criminals awaiting deportation will be fitted with satellite tracking tags.
It will also become an offence for businesses and recruitment agencies to hire abroad without first advertising in the UK – a policy which featured prominently in Labour’s election manifesto.
Ministers say the package builds on the progress made over the past five years but critics say the Conservatives’ tough rhetoric has not been matched by action on the ground, either in tackling illegal immigration or curbing legal immigration.
Labour welcomed the action but said it did not go far enough.
“A lot of this will look very familiar to anyone who read Labour’s manifesto,” shadow immigration minister David Hanson said.
“After five years of opposing action to tackle exploitation, which can affect wages and act as a driver for low-skilled labour, the prime minister is now offering policies he said were unnecessary, such as banning agencies from only recruiting from abroad.
“It is clear the measures outlined here will not be sufficient to tackle exploitation. There needs to be a clear offence of exploitation that undercuts local jobs and wages, which the police and other experts have called for.”
Figures published in February showed that not only is net migration 50,000 higher than when Mr Cameron came to power, but even non-EU migration – which ministers had claimed to have brought under control – has been increasing rapidly.