The Home Office has been urged by more than 60 MPs, academics and campaign groups to halt an “inhumane” new policy. The policy that will see banks required to check the immigration status of account holders from January 2018.
An open letter was written to Amber Rudd. Its signatories include Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Labour MP David Lammy and human rights group Liberty.
The letter warns that the checks could see thousands wrongly blocked from using banking services. This is due to the Home Office’s “poor track record” of dealing with complaints and appeals in a timely manner.
The letter, seen exclusively by The Independent, also urges that the policy will be most harmful to BAME communities. It adds that it will increase the vulnerability of people who are already in precarious positions.
The legislation, is designed as part of the Government’s bid to create a “hostile environment” for immigrants. It will require banks and building societies to check 70 million current accounts each quarter. The provisions came into effect in October and the first checks are due to be carried out in January 2018.
People affected will include those whose visas have run out, failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders facing deportation. If flagged in the checks, their accounts will be closed or frozen under the new legislation. The Home Office says it is expecting the policy to identify 6,000 illegal immigrants in the first year.
Inhumane policy with damaging consequences
Lawyers, campaigners and politicians have warned that the Home Office’s “abysmal track record” on immigration checks, will fail many. They fear that the policy will result in thousands of legitimate citizens being wrongly identified as illegal immigrants.
There has been a recent examination of current immigration measures by the chief inspector of borders. It found that one in 10 people who were refused a new account for immigration reasons were denied in error. And this was because of Home Office records.
The letter states: “These regulations and others introduced under the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ strategy are inhumane and have no place in a compassionate society.
“There is no evidence to suggest that they will achieve the stated aim of encouraging people without regular migration status to leave the country, and good grounds to believe they will have a number of other damaging consequences.”
It states that despite assurances offered in the House of Commons that the data will be “subject to rigorous checks”, it is not clear that any improvements had yet been made to the Home Office’s database system since the ICIBI found that it was not always accurate.