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Suspected illegal Migrants UK bank accounts to be closed.

View profile for Kashif Kamran
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The infamous and controversial policy of a ‘Hostile Environment’ introduced by the Ex-Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been reinstated. In January 2018, the government announced that the Bank Accounts of people suspected of living in the UK without proper status or illegally will be suspended or closed.

This policy of government created a lot of confusion and became very controversial. This policy backfired because of ‘The Windrush Scandal. The background of the Windrush is that it is the name of a ship that brought West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948 and many people living in the UK since then without a proper documentation.

In 2018 under the ‘hostile environment policy’, an unknown number of people were detained and lost their jobs and houses. They were denied benefits and denied medical care to which they were entitled. This was all done during the campaign and crackdown on the immigrants who were suspected of living without proper papers.

The reliability of the government's claims to distinguish accurately between people living in the UK legally and those without the correct immigration status was challenged. Because of this situation, the Home Office acknowledged that the government had misclassified the status of the Windrush generation as living in the UK illegally. Therefore, given this development, the government suspended the policy of closing the Bank account of suspected illegal immigrants.

Now after a gap of five years, this policy has been relaunched once again to close the current accounts of suspected immigrants. A new data-sharing agreement with the financial sector has been made. This initiative is part of the package of measures designed to deter illegal migration and illegal working by making it harder for people without confirmed immigration status to be paid.

Further, the Home Office said,” Making it more difficult for unlawful migrants to access financial services is an important tool to help deter illegal immigration. The immigration minister has assured that there will be “robust safeguards in place to prevent wrongful account closures. “According to the immigration minister, “Only those known to be here unlawfully or those who have absconded from immigration control will have their details shared.”

As an Immigration law practitioner, I have little faith and trust in these safeguards.

As we know, the Bank staff have neither training nor knowledge to check the immigration documents of their customers or to access their immigration status in the country.

It has been clarified that the Home Office will share the details of people they believe to be ineligible for Banking services in the UK via an anti-fraud organisation. It means the Bank accounts of all immigrants and ethnic minorities will be monitored and scrutinised. However, Banks and Building Societies will be obliged to check their current account holders against these lists. The Bank account will only be closed when the Home Office has made a further manual check to ensure the customer is in the UK without permission to stay.

I doubt very much that in the current environment when the whole government is running a campaign against illegal immigrants. The checking system can work properly and efficiently. On top of that, the government have dropped several key reforms recommendation made in the wake of ‘Windrush scandal’

I am sure many innocent people will be penalised for this adventure. Therefore, I would like to suggest that all those immigrants who are undocumented should take legal help and advice. With proper legal advice, they can explore the possibilities and options of going back to the system of the Home Office to have some acknowledgement letter in their pocket to prove that they are not illegal in the country. There are a lot of provisions under Appendix FM, Article 8 with a right of family and private life, Human Rights, Exceptional circumstances and Unjustifiable harsh consequences if they are removed from the country are available to all undocumented immigrants. I am sure these ruthless measures will bring more misery to the immigrants struggling to live legally in this country.

It is better to get your circumstances accessed, and if someone can prove or alleges that their Removal/ Deportation will breach and violate their human rights should apply to the home office. If refused, they can be given the right of appeal. The Immigration Judges are more considerate and polite where there are grounds to stay under Article 8 and specially where children involved in such matters.