Part 3 of the Bill deals with the powers that will be handed over to immigration officers, members of the public, on-service police officers and detainee officers, amongst others. Their powers will be extended to an unparalleled level. With the aim of clamping down on illegal immigration, this part of the Bill will equip immigration officers with enhanced search-and-seizure powers to collect evidence that will, according to Government, help to secure more civil penalties and removals.
Before discussing the specific amendments tabled, we should take note of the points made by the organisations that have provided evidence during the passage of the Bill. Liberty, in particular, has voiced a number of concerns about the Bill, including the extension of powers to be handed over to immigration officials, a lack of training and accountability for immigration officers, the expectation that those officers will carry out police-like activities and the transformation of members of the public into the UK Government’s very own immigration agents.
We should be concerned about the impact that this part of the Bill will have on people. Regardless of our own views on illegal immigration, the Bill needs to deal with illegal immigration in a humane, respectable and appropriate manner. The amendments tabled by Scottish National party and Labour Members aim to capture that mood and, in doing so, reduce the damaging impact that some of the clauses may have on people.
The Bill aims to clamp down on illegal immigration, and we should accept that action must be taken on those who are here illegally. Being classified as an illegal immigrant, however, creates a number of difficulties. As we have heard in our discussions on illegal working, the status of illegal immigrant can push a person and their family into a serious and vulnerable position. We should still treat people who are here illegally with respect and dignity. In addition, although illegal migration exists in the UK, we should not tackle it in a way that damages the experience that other migrants have while here. Clause 19 highlights that point. Tackling illegal immigration will have an impact on those who are living here or enter the UK illegally, but we should equally be concerned about the impact that the clause will have on migrants who have been granted legal authorisation to live in the UK.