New borders bill tightens grip on immigration

Liam Byrne unveils new UK borders bill
Liam Byrne unveils new UK borders bill

Tough new measures to track who is coming into the UK and ensure foreigners settling in the country are properly identified have been introduced by the government today.

The UK borders bill would require all non-European foreigners living in Britain to have a biometric ID card. If they refuse to comply, they could face a £1,000 fine or be deported.

Immigration officials would also see their powers strengthened to allow them to arrest criminals or suspected criminals at border posts, while a new border and immigration agency would be created to "deter, detect and deport" those people breaking the rules.

In addition, the government has introduced an automatic presumption that foreigners convicted of a serious offence - one which results in a custodial sentence of more than a year - will be automatically deported from the country.

The legislation follows a series of immigration scandals, notably the revelation that 1,000 foreign prisoners were released without being considered for deportation, and the admission that the government had no idea how many illegal immigrants are in the UK.

The measures will complement changes announced by home secretary John Reid last summer. These included doubling the immigration enforcement budget to £200 million and introducing electronic checks on everyone coming in or out of the UK by 2014.

Home Office minister Liam Byrne said the plans represented "the most radical shake-up of the immigration service in its history" and would give frontline staff the powers they needed to create "a more hostile environment for those abusing our laws".

However, the director of human rights group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, warned some of the proposed measures were illiberal. She said automatic deportation for foreign national prisoners was a "clear violation of every principle of natural justice".

She added that ID cards for non-European residents could be "racially divisive" as it would see people stopped in the streets to prove their nationality and immigration status.

Read more reaction to the bill at issue of the day.


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