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Friday, 14 October 2016

UK IMMIGRATION IN DRIVING LICENCE REVOCATION QUAGMIRE!

Hundreds of people have been wrongly refused bank accounts or had their driving licences revoked under the former home secretary Theresa May’s measures to “create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants”, the immigration watchdog has revealed.

David Bolt, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, said the Home Office had failed to appreciate the potential impact of such wrong decisions on those affected.

His report, published on Thursday, shows that more than 250 people who had their driving licences revoked last year had been wrongfully identified as being in the UK illegally, as had 10% of those denied a bank or building society account.

The chief inspector’s first assessment of the initial 2014 phase of May’s “hostile environment measures” to deny public and private services to people with no legal right to be in the UK raises questions about whether ministers were justified in pressing ahead with phase two, due to come into effect next year.

The second phase will create a new offence of driving unlawfully in Britain, and banks and building societies will be empowered to close the accounts of immigrants who are in the country illegally and freeze their assets.

Bolt said there was insufficient hard evidence to determine whether the measures were achieving what the government intended, such as an increase in those voluntarily returning home. A proper evaluation was needed, he said, not least because of concerns about the potential damage of the measures to individuals and communities.

In a separate report commissioned by May in January when she was home secretary, the chief inspector revealed that almost 200,000 foreign nationals had been arrested in 2014-15 in England and Wales. But the police asked the Home Office to carry out immigration status checks on only 30% of the foreign nationals arrested outside London. When the Metropolitan police force was included, the proportion whose immigration status was checked rose to just over 50%.

The “hostile measures” report reveals that 9,732 people had their driving licences revoked in 2015 after Home Office checks on their immigration status – close to the 10,000 a year target set by ministers. In total, 20,000 people have had their driving licences revoked since the measure was introduced in July 2014.

Bolt said, however, that human error and poor quality Home Office data led to 259 people who were not in the country illegally having their driving licences revoked in 2015, and the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency had to reinstate them.

“While these cases amounted to a small percentage of the total numbers of revocations, the Home Office did not appear to appreciate the seriousness of such errors for the individuals affected,” said the chief inspector.

“This was particularly true where a licence had been revoked when the individual had departed the UK before their leave had expired.” In such cases, if the person returned without knowing their licence had been revoked they faced being disqualified if they drove on British roads.

He said only 583 of the 9,732 people who had their licences revoked in 2015 subsequently left the country. On top of that, only 475 revoked licences were actually returned to the DVLA in 2014-15.

Bolt said it was not possible to say how many people were refused a bank or building society account on the grounds of being in the country illegally because the 2014 law does not require them to report customer refusals from immigration status checks.

But, he said, a sample of 169 case files of those refused accounts showed that 17 (10%) should not have been listed as “disqualified persons” on immigration grounds, despite the list being updated weekly.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As the home secretary announced earlier this month, we will be introducing measures that will mean that banks will have to do regular checks to ensure that they are not providing banking services to illegal migrants. Furthermore, we are introducing a new power to search for and seize UK driving licences held by those living in the UK unlawfully.

“The measures discussed in the independent chief inspector’s report should not be seen in isolation, but as part of the wider action we are taking that has made it harder than ever before for illegal migrants to live in this country.”

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