Those who believed that Brexit would see the UK “take back control” continue to look in despair as the country’s borders remain porous and insecure. The ongoing small-boats emergency on the English south coast has made a complete mockery of our so-called national sovereignty over immigration and asylum policy.
The asylum system has been reduced to a survival-of-the-fittest arrangement, with able-bodied males being ferried to the UK on small boats through the English Channel. Some of these illegal entrants are in turn relocated to the more disadvantaged parts of the country. At times, they subsequently abscond from under-regulated forms of accommodation without a trace.
Some on the contemporary British Left are open-border evangelists who believe that the UK should be an international outpost that serves the central purpose of maximising global welfare. From a philosophical perspective, the very concept of the nation state with meaningful borders is an enemy to their holy cause, which might be called global redistributive justice. There is no serious consideration for the fact that this scale of illegal migration fuels labour exploitation, undermines social cohesion and poses a threat to public order.
While the Government has sought to shore up our borders through the Illegal Migration Act, there needs to be a truly national effort to dismantle people-smuggling networks, as well as punishing exploitative bosses who employ illegal migrants and unscrupulous landlords who house them in overcrowded properties. There needs to be a fostering of a genuinely hostile environment for those who are contributing towards the UK’s illegal immigration crisis.
As it stands, an individual may be sent to prison for five years and pay a large fine if that person is found guilty of employing someone who he/she knew or had “reasonable cause to believe” did not have the right to work in the UK. This fine can be up to £20,000 per illegal worker. But the Government should look to introduce much stronger penalties for those who fail to comply with the law on right-to-work checks and knowingly employ illegal migrants while making handsome profits by paying them a pittance. This form of labour exploitation undermines the integrity of the British market economy – one where social responsibility is an integral part of mainstream business activity.
Moreover, like the case of employing illegal workers, one can be sent to jail for 5 years or receive a fine for renting property (in England) to someone who he/she knew or had “reasonable cause to believe” did not have the right to rent in the UK. The amount for a first-time penalty for a lodger in a private household is a meagre £80 (which rises to £1,000 for tenants in rented accommodation). Both the potential prison sentences and penalties for such misdemeanours should be toughened as a matter of urgency. This is not “anti-landlord” – it is about tackling criminal activity in the rental market.
By empowering its law-enforcement authorities and introducing stiffer punishments, the UK can create a truly hostile environment for those who benefit from the illegal immigration ecosystem, especially people-smuggling networks, exploitative bosses, and crooked landlords.
Dr Rakib Ehsan is the author of Beyond Grievance
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