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Friday, September 25, 2020

New law heralds hard times for illegal Gambian migrants in UK

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Under the new law, property owners are required to check immigration status of tenants in an attempt to create ‘hostile environment’ for illegal migrants. Landlords must request evidence of a new tenant’s identity and citizenship, such as a passport or a biometric residence permit. 

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Private landlords across Birmingham and the ‘Black Country’ will face fines of up to £3,000 from December if they fail to check on the immigration status of their new tenants, the Home Office announced. The introduction of the first phase of the “right to rent” scheme is part of a drive to “create a hostile environment” for illegal migrants in Britain and to deny them access to public services they are not entitled to.

The Home Office promised a landlord-checking service will respond within two working days to inquiries to confirm the status of those who have outstanding immigration applications or appeals. The introduction of the compulsory landlord immigration checks was phased in at the insistence of the Liberal Democrats, and a decision on whether to cancel the extension of the scheme throughout Britain will have to be taken after the general election in May. The Home Office says it expects to continue with the phased introduction of the checks across the UK next year.

The first phase will see landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton required to request evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship, such as a passport or a biometric residence permit. Copies of the documents will have to be taken and kept for 12 months after the tenancy has ended. Under-18s will be exempted from the checks.

Student accommodations where tenants have been nominated directly by colleges, local authority housing, hostels and refuges will be exempted from the checks either because it would duplicate existing immigration checks or could undermine protection of vulnerable groups.

The Home Office said the West Midlands was chosen for the first phase of the roll-out of the scheme because it is an area with a diverse housing stock and its population size mitigates the risk of displacing tenants to other areas.

The measure is part of a package in the 2014 Immigration Act, which also introduces powers to revoke the driving licences of illegal migrants, place a stronger duty on registrars to report sham marriages and streamline the recovery of fines levied on companies for employing illegal migrants.

The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said: “The right to rent checks will be quick and simple, but will make it more difficult for immigration offenders to stay in the country when they have no right to be here. They will also act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out substandard, overcrowded and unsafe accommodation.

“Landlords in the West Midlands will have all the advice and support they need in advance of the checks going live on 1 December.”

A Gambian illegal immigrant in Bristol who declined to be named said the new law has left him sleepless, saying: “Some of us have been able to work without papers to support our families back home despite the tightening of immigration laws over the years. In the past and present we have been able to rent houses to stay together but now it is going to be harder to get a roof over your head. This is worrying because the documented people will be apprehensive of taking any illegal immigrants in for fear of a visit by the immigration. We are only trying to use the opportunities here to develop ourselves and improve the lives of our people and that is a bloodless jihad we will continue by all means.”

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