back to article Byrne puts fake ID frighteners on illegal employers

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne is to celebrate the first wave of the ID card rollout next year with a scary ad campaign threatening employers of illegal immigrants with fines of £10,000 per offence and up to two years in prison. But even by the low standards of the Home Office, "the biggest shake-up of the immigration system …


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  1. Colin Wilson

    What is it with this government...

    "The new rules permit the Borders & Immigration Agency (BIA) to levy civil penalties"

    It seems that many legally dubious "grey" areas of law are now being set up as "civil" cases so as to avoid proper burden of proof and testing in court.

    Just look at parking deregulation, and the number of scams going on with that now.

  2. Ian

    What does a real passport look like?

    Twenty years ago, forging a passport was trivial: you forged a passport for Ruritania, safe in the knowledge that no-one knew what one looked like. In these EU-model passports, forging a passport for an EU country is a bit harder, because most people have handled plenty (although as they change design with the phase of the moon small variations won't be noticed). However, forging an EFTA passport is again trivial: I've never handled a passport from Switzerland or Norway or Iceland, and nor have most employers: job's a good 'un. And of course there are still various routes that were issuing non-EU format British passports until quite recently, and if you don't ahve an English accent then your story of how you got a consulate-issued passport (your mother was British but moved overseas as a child) might fly.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think you ment

    "This highly visible marketing campaign will ensure employers have no excuse for breaking the rules"

    I think you ment

    "This very expensive marketing campaign will ensure our friends at the marketing company have no excuse for not breaking out the bubbly at our next dinner party."

  4. Jez Caudle

    All fluff

    Another New labour trick of announcing nothing new as if it is new and obscuring the facts to big-up id cards.

    They are also playing the immigration card as well without actually taking any action. If they were to actually look into cases of illegal working it would mean paying decent wages to the investigators and carrying out actual investigations - both quite costly. Why spend money there when there are plenty of private companies to hand money over to for running down the NHS, schools, Military Research etc?

    Most people will be put off by the fines and threats of prison time but those who have the most to gain from employing illegal workers - people traffickers, those who refuse to pay even the minimum wage - are really not scared as their profits and illegal activities carry a much larger tariff. And they have managed to get away with it for years anyway - so why be worried?

    This is the government that in the name of efficiency has reduced the amount of Tax and VAT inspectors - and then whines on about VAT carousel fraud. The Home Office lurches from crisis to crisis driven by newspaper headlines. When a newspaper reveals that foreign criminals are not being deported at the end of their sentence all resources are shunted to that problem leaving other problems to appear.

    I stubbed my toe on my bed this morning. I bet that wouldn't have happen if the UK had Identity Cards.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I must be missing something

    In every other EU country I've been to, if you want to stay and work there, you get a residence permit. If you're not an EU citizen, you get a work permit as well. When you apply for a job, the prospective employer asks to see one or both documents. The government knows how many foreign nationals are resdient in the country by counting the number of permits they've issued.

    I can only assume from the headless-chicken state of affairs on this issue in the UK that this is not the case here. Do they currently not issue any permits at all, or keep any record of who they've allowed in?

    If they dont, why is it so difficult for the UK government to grasp such a simple concept that everyone else seems to be able to deal with?

  6. Gwyn Kemp-Philp

    It's not you...

    ...that's missing something, it's our pretend government that can't cope with the reality of the situation they find themselves in, it was never like this in the Oxford Union Government preparation classes.

    We are so muddled with our tiers of identity documents and exceptions and patches, nobody has a clue what is real and what isn't.

    The general rule seems to be the more preposterous an ID seems to be, the more likely it is to be real. and of course, if you get it wrong, you'd be bound to infringe somebody's human rights.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Is there not a more fundamental problem here?

    With apologies to Justin Sullivan:

    Jobs? Free to move.

    Oil? Free to move.

    Money? Free to move.

    People? Err, nope.

    I for one am looking forward to the introduction of ID cards in the UK, I can then become the fugitive that I've always wished I had been.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused

    I can't refuse to employ someone because they are an evil foreign devil, but I can decline to employ them because I cannot confirm their immigration status, or think that their documents might be fake. Well, I never did like the green ones with the funny accent, so I will just have doubts about their documents.

    On second thoughts, maybe I am wrong. Do I have to employ them even if I have doubts about their status because to fail to do so would be racists? I wonder if I can use fear of one law to protect me against another or will they find a way to get me for both of them?

    Oh dear, what should I do? I know! I will run in circles, scream and shout. Everyone will think that I am a politician and I will be above the law. Ahhh, no more worries.

  9. heystoopid

    Say did we not see this as a BBC comedy show !

    Say did we not see this form of stupidity and crazy insane political double speak in the many episodes of both "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister" back in the early early to late eighties where people rattled fake verbal sabres in the air so as to speak so as to appear to be doing something when in reality they are not lifting one finger as it is a no win for any party situation !

    Those BBC comedy writers in that show truly had the measure of all politicians both of the day along with those yet to come whilst still mirroring the events of today as well , truly uncanny indeed !

  10. John Munyard


    I find it interesting in this case to compare rather extreme levels of checking and bureaucracy being imposed on businesses in this case with the Home Office's own pathetic ability not only to prevent illegal immigrants entering the UK, but also not being able to count (or even remotely estimate) the numbers of Eastern Europeans who've flooding in during the past two years.

    Furthermore compare the penalties for employers proposed by Mr Byrne for this "offence" and compare that with the lack of criminal and civil penalties available to prosecute the recent incompetent "losses" of personal data under the Data Protection Act.

    Indeed since the HO has clearly also been caught employing a number of illegal immigrants in 2007 will Mr Byrne be the first to step forward for a jail sentence and a £10,000 fine?

    Though not...

  11. Adrian Tawse

    Just why are we so keen on not collecting tax anyway

    These people ar here anyway. We can allow them to work, and collect ax, or they will get illegal jobs and pay no tax. We have virtually no unemployment now so very few can say they are taking jobs from nationals. Most of the jobs these people are doing national would not do anyway. The money currently being spent pusuing these people would be better spent creating the sort of lower paid jobs we are talking about rather than the extraordinarily well paid ID consultancy firms. I cant help feeling we are being scammed here.

  12. Anonymous Coward


    surely someone with a strong Jamacian, Nigerian or Bengali accent turning up at an employeers or some other such place with a passport from Switzerland, Norway or Iceland would indicate the need for further checks?

  13. JohnG

    Employers to be unpaid immigration officials?

    So, as an employer, I am supposed to do the job that the Home Office should have done already!

    If I only check documents of people I think are foreign, I am automatically in breach of anti-discrimination law, so I have to check everyone's documents.

    How the fuck do I know what a genuine Right to Work stamp in some passport should look like for any given year?

    Like someone else pointed out, the rest of Europe uses locally issued residency permits. Typically, employers simply record the permit numbers along with names in regular tax submissions - it's the job of the tax office to check if these tally with permits issued.

  14. Svein Skogen

    Solution to the wrong problem

    Tell me something. Isn't all this simply solving the wrong end of a non-existent problem, by getting just another angle to introduce ID cards? Every time I hear those ID-Cards politicians scream, I seem to remember all the comedic jokes made about "papers please", using a phony german accent.

    Make it compulsory for employers to have insurance for the employee. Insurance-companies are usually pretty thorough in checking the name of the insured party, simply because they are afraid of dishing out money they can wriggle away from. Solves three problems in one go. A) Gives employers better rights and security, B) Makes sure the checking is actually done, and C) needs no additional identity cards.

    If they make the insurance contract a standardized one, I'm fairly certain there is a possibility of a Schengen/EU standard for these things, and maybe we can even get a central EU database (no, such a database should not be outsourced to neighter Langley, Virginia, nor to India or China).

    As for penalty, I think the correct penalty for failing to insure your employers against accidents should be immediate and permanent revocation of you right to be an employer. Why? Because this employer has proved without a shed of doubt that they care so little for their employees well-being that it's obvious they are unfit for this purpose. This aswell solves the problem in a simple manner, by making the problem go away. Permanently. Since the COST of such insurance would vary with the level of protection from injury the employee has, it will balance itself out as a nice motivator for employres to make sure proper steps are taken to avoid accidents. (Gives the beancounters a nice headache aswell, since it would no longer be cheaper to use insufficient safety measures). Yet another problem solved.

    This is simple, enforcable, and it isn't yet another excuse to introduce a society where the government can get YET ANOTHER "big brother sees you"-act into life. I wonder when they are going to make RFID-cards compulsory, with scanners at every street corner and in every cash register?


  15. Nigel Callaghan Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    But this is Britain...

    ...and there is no requirement for a British citizen to have ANY paperwork at all to prove their existence! So if someone can't prove they are a foreigner here legally then it's natural and reasonable for an employer to assume they are British-born and bred. How could I prove I wasn't a foreigner? I haven't got my birth certificate (and they don't have a photo on anyway!), don't have a passport, don't have a driving licence - so presumably I have the right to work anywhere...

  16. Julian

    What about the NI Number

    You can't get an ordinary job in the UK without an National Insurance Number and you can't get a NIN without an real life interview to check your right to work if you aren't born here. So why don't they simply say every employee must have a valid NIN or current EU passport (since you can't have got into the UK from Europe with an expired EU passport).

    There are gaps: employees of oversea companies have their own rules, ministers of religion don't require any permit to work as such and academics have their own swathe of rules but these exceptions are small in number - and most of these people will have to get a NIN for other reasons anyway.

    My point is, to get an NIN all non-birth UK people have to go through a face-to-face interview to check their right-to-work status and all employees must quote their NIN. Why does the government need this to be done again and again and again...?

    Maybe the government fundamentally doesn't trust tis own processes and staff.

  17. BitTwister

    @But this is Britain...

    > ...and there is no requirement for a British citizen to have ANY paperwork at all to prove their existence!


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