Sunday, January 14, 2018

Banks run immigration checks in Home Office crackdown

Banks are to begin immigration checks on millions of accounts as part of a Home Office scheme to create a "hostile environment" for people living in the UK unlawfully.

The new scheme, which will be rolled out this month, requires banks and building societies to check all current account holders against a list of people liable for deportation or wanted by immigration enforcement.

If an account holder is found to be in the UK illegally the bank must inform the Home Office, which will instruct on action that may include closing the account.

"These new measures are part of our commitment to make it more difficult for people with no right to live or work in the UK to remain here," immigration minister Caroline Noakes said.

The measures have been criticised by rights groups who say they will expose vulnerable people to harm, as well as putting those with regular migration status at risk of having their accounts mistakenly closed.

"What is shocking about this system is that people's bank accounts, which they rely on for their jobs, their homes, and every aspect of life, can be closed with no clear means of redress or compensation in case of errors," said Chai Patel, legal policy director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

"Additionally, this places people affected at even greater risk of exploitation and of being driven into a cash-only economy at the mercy of unscrupulous employers and landlords."

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