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Illegal migrant rogue employers will be hit from all angles, minister warns

Published 10/08/2015

James Brokenshire pledged the Government would act against businesses which were denying work to British nationals
James Brokenshire pledged the Government would act against businesses which were denying work to British nationals

Rogue employers who give jobs to illegal immigrants will be hit with the "full force" of the government machine, immigration minister James Brokenshire warned.

He said the Government was determined to act against businesses which were denying work to British nationals and driving down wages.

His comments came as The Times reported that immigration officers were preparing to mount a wave of raids this autumn targeting building sites, care homes and cleaning contractors.

"Rogue employers who give jobs to illegal migrants are denying work to UK citizens and legal migrants and helping drive down wages," Mr Brokenshire said.

"Experience tells us that employers who are prepared to cheat employment rules are also likely to breach health and safety rules and pay insufficient tax.

"That's why our new approach will be to use the full force of government machinery to hit them from all angles and take away the unfair advantage enjoyed by those who employ illegal migrants."

His intervention came after Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the huge influx of migrants coming from Africa was threatening to undermine social cohesion and living standards across Europe.

Mr Hammond said the continent could not absorb "millions" of Africans and called for the overhaul of EU laws to ensure those coming simply to find a better way of life could be returned to their own countries.

He said in many cases, migrants knew they once they managed to reach Europe for there to be little chance of them ever being forced to leave.

His comments were condemned as "mean-spirited" and "shameful" by Amnesty International while Labour said the Foreign Secretary was guilty of "scaremongering".

Speaking during a visit to Singapore, Mr Hammond said the gap in living standards between the two continents meant there would always be an "economic motivation" for Africans to try to make it to the EU.

"As long as the Europe Union's laws are the way they are, many of them will only have to set foot in Europe to be pretty confident that they will never be returned to their country of origin," he told BBC News.

"Now, that is not a sustainable situation because Europe can't protect itself and preserve its standard of living and social structure, if it has to absorb millions of migrants from Africa."

Mr Hammond said ensuring migrants could be returned to their country of origin was also the key to resolving the "crisis" at Calais, where hundreds are gathered in the hope of being able to make it across the Channel to Britain.

"So long as there are large numbers of pretty desperate migrants marauding around the area there will always be a threat to the tunnel's security," he said.

Steve Symonds of Amnesty International UK denounced his comments, saying the Government had a duty to protect people fleeing conflicts and brutal regimes.

"With countries like Lebanon, Ethiopia and Chad hosting far more refugees than the UK and other European countries, the Foreign Secretary's mean-spirited response is shameful," he said.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam UK, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I think Europe has to recognise at the moment that a few countries are bearing an unfair burden and Britain is not one of them.

"Britain has actually got to accept more asylum seekers, it has got to find more systematic ways of assessing who the right people are.

"And it has to recognise that as a global citizen it has a bigger role to play in peacekeeping."

He added: "I don't know the exact number but at the moment the number of migrants we have accepted from Syria is in the hundreds - it needs to be in the thousands.

"But we have to look at the people coming across the Med in total. At the moment, Britain is accepting less than a quarter of the number of Germany and Sweden. We can match our European neighbours, if we plan it properly."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "If the Government were really serious about tackling employers who are exploiting illegal working and immigration they should have supported Labour plans to extend gangmaster laws to new sectors, make serious exploitation of workers a criminal offence and strengthen enforcement of housing overcrowding. When they had the chance in the Commons to support these proposals they didn't support them.

"Exploitation hurts everyone - those who are working hard and being exploited, other workers whose pay and jobs are undercut, and responsible employers who are undermined.

"Action to identify employers exploiting illegal working is important but the government should still do more to target serious exploitation and undercutting, some of which is effectively modern slavery - they should extend the Gangmasters' Licencing Authority and make exploitation a crime."

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