Businesses that employ illegal workers will be hit with “the full force of government machinery”, immigration minister James Brokenshire has warned.
He said “rogue employers” who give work to illegal migrants were denying UK citizens jobs, driving down wages and gaining an “unfair advantage”.
How many people work here illegally?
A 2009 London School of Economics study estimated the UK had 618,000 “irregular” residents, but in 2010 campaign group Migration Watch said the figures was closer to 1.1 million. The studies are the most recent estimates.
What is the government doing?
Immigration Enforcement teams will carry out more raids, along with bodies such as HM Revenue & Customs, the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority and Health and Safety Executive taking part.
What happens to employers of illegal workers?
Employers can be fined up to £20,000 per person for employing illegal workers. Employers who knowingly employ an illegal worker can be jailed for up to two years.
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.”
Shadow home secretary, Ms Cooper said the government should extend the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority – a public body that works to stop worker exploitation – and to “make exploitation a crime”.
“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,” she added.