December 10, 2017

UK Banks, building societies to cross check immigration status of everyone with an account

Banks and building societies in the United Kingdom are on a roller coaster as they set momentum in scrutinizing accounts held by all immigrants in the country, BBC reports.

This follows approval by MPs in 2016. The exercise is set to kick off in January 2018.

Bank accounts held by illegal immigrants will be closed down or frozen.

Anti-fraud organization Cifas will furnish all financial institutions with a list of people subject to removal or deportation from the UK or those who have absconded from immigration control.

The financial institutions after receiving the list will report the names and freeze or close individual accounts associated with the people named.

According to the Home office, the system will be “fair” but “firm”.

About 70 million accounts will be scrutinized on a quarterly basis according to the Guardian.

Among other things, the scrutiny will be to verify immigration status of the holders.

However, former TSB board member Philip Augar observes that even with the resolve UK has to crackdown on illegal immigrants, mistakes will be made and “poor individuals” will suffer.

“This is in the hands of the Home Office and the banks, neither of which are exactly known for flawless execution,” he states at BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He adds: “What happens when something goes wrong – if a bank account is frozen and the owner is entirely legal or if they’ve simply got the wrong name?

“Resolving those situations will be, in some cases, smoothly done, but I can imagine it being an absolute nightmare for some poor individuals.

“The problem is going to be multiple names will come up, the wrong names and bank accounts will be frozen, and it is how this is resolved, that will be the difficulty.”

Augar, however, notes that it is only right for “law breakers to expect the full weight of enforcement.”

The checks approved by Parliament in 2016 are part of a strategy to get illegal immigrants leave UK voluntarily.

In 2014, UK’s Parliament passed the rule with the intent to scrutinize the immigration status of anyone opening a new bank or building society account.

Only details of illegal immigrants in the UK will be shared by the Home Office according to Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Those who have exhausted all appeal rights and who should be denied access to banking services will be classified as immigrants unlawfully in the UK.

Rudd noted that for the legal migrants, they will continue enjoying various services with financial institutions.

However, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants protested this move noting migrants with every right to be in the UK will be affected.

“The government’s own record shows that it cannot be trusted even to implement this system properly,” lamented the Joint Council’s Chief executive Satbir Singh as quoted by the Guardian.

“Immigration status is very complex, and the Home Office consistently gives out incorrect information and guidance.”

In response to Singh’s assertion, a spokesman for the Home Office rejoined that “We are developing an immigration system which is fair to people who are here legally, but firm with those who break the rules.

“Everyone in society can play their part in tackling illegal migration.”

Landlords and employers who knowingly render any service to an immigrant unlawfully in the UK will be dealt with appropriately.

By Pharis Kinyua. He’s an online Journalist an author for Jamhuri News

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