Plans to crack down on illegal immigration by forcing landlords to evict failed asylum seeking tenants or face up to five years in jail have been slammed by lawyers. They have warned that the new law will do nothing but clog up the courts with human rights cases, and drive tenants towards already over-subscribed social housing.
The new law is part of a package of measures found in the new Immigration Bill. Designed to reduce illegal immigration by exerting pressure on failed asylum seekers, encouraging them to leave the country, the measure has been championed by the Prime Minister David Cameron. But critics have said that it does little more than paper over the cracks.
Now lawyers are warning that illegal immigrants often can’t be simply evicted. Some applicants may have had children during the time required to reach a verdict on their immigration status; others may also claim a right to family life having put down roots. Cases such as these would have to be referred to UK courts to rule on under Human Rights legislation, and each case could potentially last months.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, housing law expert Matthew Hyam of BLM said: “Immigration status can take a long time to resolve. You could have individuals who have children in this process. You then have a child born in the UK who is going to have different rights to the parents who are the tenants. What happens to the child if the family is evicted? It would be very difficult to allow the process to proceed without the court’s intervention.”
He warned that the rules would deter landlords from letting their properties to foreigners, putting extra pressure on social housing.
“If private sector landlords become deterred from housing people with migrant status issues or just people with foreign accents then those people may be forced to seek social housing,” he said. “Previously, landlords would take anyone – but if the private sector is pushing back because they are being cautious, tenants will be knocking at the local authority saying ‘I need housing because I can’t get it’.”
UKIP Housing spokesman Andrew Charalambous agreed, pointing out that landlords have no expertise in assessing migration status. “The impact of putting even more red tape on landlords and lettings will be to further increase already soaring rents and cause a surge in homelessness,” he said.
“The vast majority of landlords do not have the tools or expertise to be able to safely verify the immigration status of potential tenants. David Cameron should stop papering over the cracks and recognise the only way to effectively control immigration both legal and illegal is for the UK to leave the EU.”
The Conservatives have backed themselves into a corner on this issue. In the run up to the election they pledged a crackdown on illegal immigration, with Home Secretary Theresa May promising a “deport now, appeal later” policy for illegal immigrants, although she did concede that exceptions would be made for asylum seekers or those who might suffer “irreversible harm” in their own countries.
Her advisers are said to have been satisfied that the measure would not fall foul of the Human Rights Act as the migrants would still be able to lodge appeals, but they would have to do so in their home country, not the UK.
In recent days Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has come under fire for saying the Government had “a grip on the crisis” in Calais, as thousands of migrants storm the entrance to the Eurotunnel each night.
According to a recent analysis by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, 38,767 people were removed from or voluntarily left the UK in 2014, 40 percent of whom were from Pakistan, India and China. They also found that removals and voluntary departures of asylum applicants and their dependents have declined every year since 2006, reaching 6,788 in 2014, although non-asylum removals have increased during the same period from a low of around 10,000 in 2004.