In January 2018, a new policy was introduced under the 2016 Immigration Act, which required banks and building societies to carry out quarterly immigration checks on 70 million current accounts. They were required to check the identity of every current account holder against a Home Office supplied database held by an anti-fraud organisation. This measure was described as the ‘biggest extension of Theresa May’s plans to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in Britain’.
The scheme aimed to identify 6,000 people who had overstayed, failed asylum seekers and foreign nationals facing deportation in the first year of checks. However, just five months since its implementation, and in the wake of the Windrush scandal, the Home Office has suspended the scheme.
The problems highlighted by the Windrush scandal, whereby individuals were wrongly identified as illegal immigrants and had access to public services denied and their right to work revoked, have raised doubts over the reliability of such checks. A spokeswoman for the Home Office said that checks had been suspended temporarily in order to “review the existing safeguards to ensure that those who are here lawfully are not disadvantaged by measures put in place to tackle illegal migration”.
Home Office officials have been instructed by the Home Secretary to contact the relevant banks and ask them not to go ahead with closing the suspected bank accounts until he is comfortable “that we have it right”.
Gherson are experts in assisting with various immigration matters. If you need assistance or wish to receive some more information regarding your immigration matters, please contact us.
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