Steep fines imposed on firms hiring unauthorized migrants.

The UK government is implementing new regulations that would triple fines for businesses and landlords found supporting illegal migrants in an effort to curb the incentive for illegal migration. The Home Office maintains that “illegal working and renting” act as significant attractions for illegal migration. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick asserts that these measures will act as deterrents to perilous channel crossings via small boats.

Starting in 2024, the civil penalty for businesses employing illegal migrants will rise from £15,000 to £45,000 for the first offence and triple to £60,000 for repeat offenders. Similarly, fines for landlords will escalate from £80 per lodger and £1,000 per occupier for initial breaches to as high as £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier. Subsequent breaches could result in penalties of up to £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier.

Minister Jenrick underscores the importance of proper checks, stating that “unscrupulous landlords and employers” contribute to the illicit activities of human smugglers and that stronger penalties are necessary.

The exact number of undocumented residents in the UK remains unknown. A 2020 study estimated that between 594,000 and 745,000 undocumented individuals lived in the country, comprising around 1% of the total population.

While Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has prioritised addressing the issue of migrants crossing the channel, opposition figures have criticised the new measures. Labour’s Yvette Cooper notes that penalties for firms employing illegal workers have decreased by two-thirds since 2016, while the Liberal Democrats’ Alistair Carmichael dismisses the move as insufficient.

Last year, over 45,000 individuals entered the UK through Channel crossings, a significant increase from around 300 in 2018. A recent contentious bill, approved by Parliament, prevents those removed from the UK from returning or seeking British citizenship in the future. The bill also empowers the home secretary to detain and remove those arriving illegally in Rwanda or a “safe” third country.

This legislation has drawn criticism from the United Nations, with human rights officials expressing concern that it compromises international protections for refugees. In 2022, the UK’s asylum application numbers ranked fifth in Europe, with Germany leading with a quarter of all first-time asylum applications within the EU.