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Immigration: Illegal Workers

Volume 699: debated on Friday 22 February 2008

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration and Minister for the West Midlands (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Over the next year, the Government will deliver the biggest shake up of the immigration system for more than 45 years. At the beginning of the year I said reform would include new measures to attack the cause of illegal immigration, which is illegal working.

To stop illegal journeys we must stop illegal jobs. For this reason I am bringing into force new powers to stop illegal migrant working. Employers who employ illegal migrants as a result of poor recruitment and employment practices from 29 February will face civil financial penalties of up to £10,000 per worker. Those who knowingly employ illegal migrants will face an unlimited fine and/or a maximum two year prison sentence.

Secondly, we will require businesses which want to employ skilled workers from outside the EEA to apply for a licence to help safeguard against deliberate undercutting of UK wages and exploitation of migrant workers. We will begin accepting applications for these licences from 29 February. To earn and hold a licence, businesses must satisfy us that they are trustworthy, and must agree to fulfil certain duties. We published a statement of intent setting out our detailed policy last November. We have carefully studied and taken account of responses to that statement in finalising the sponsorship rules, which I am publishing today. We are also publishing an assessment of the impact of sponsorship on employers and others affected. Copies of both documents have been placed in the House Library. Other prospective sponsors, including educational institutions, will be able to apply for a licence from the summer.