In Brief

Cameron's immigration bill: what is he promising this time?

PM says it's 'tougher but fairer', but critics say it would be 'extremely detrimental' to access to justice

Wages paid to illegal migrant workers will be treated as the proceeds of crime and seized under the government's radical plan to curb immigration. 

The move is part of what David Cameron calls "a tougher but fairer" approach to immigration that will make Britain "a less attractive place" to come and work illegally.

"The truth is that it has been too easy to work illegally and employ illegal workers here," the Prime Minister will say today. "So we'll take a radical step – we'll make illegal working a criminal offence in its own right."

He is expected to use next week's Queen's speech to announce a series of laws to "root out illegal immigrants and bolster deportations", the Daily Telegraph reports.

The new immigration bill will include setting up a labour market enforcement agency to crack down on exploitation, forcing banks to check accounts against databases of people who could be in the country illegally, and giving councils greater powers to evict illegal immigrants.

Cameron also plans to lower the demand for migrants by boosting the skills of British workers and imposing fines on companies that advertise for jobs abroad before they do in the UK.

Before the 2010 election, the Prime Minister pledged to bring net migration down to the "tens of thousands", even urging voters to kick him out if he failed to deliver. However, he faced a significant backlash after the figure rose to just under 300,000 by the end of the coalition's term in power.

The latest immigration figures are due out later today and are expected to show that net migration is still far higher than government targets. 

Labour welcomed the proposals, but said they did not go far enough in tackling exploitation. "There needs to be a clear offence of exploitation that undercuts local jobs and wages, which the police and other experts have called for," said shadow immigration minister David Hanson.

But migrants' rights groups have criticised the new bill, questioning how Cameron's plan to seize wages would be enforced. "We're talking about people who are illegally here, working cash-in-hand below the radar," lawyer Saira Grant, director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told the BBC. "Are the wages going to be seized retrospectively?

"But more importantly we are talking about very vulnerable people, with very little money as it is, often supporting families."

She also warned that the government's plans to extend the "deport first, appeal later" approach to non-asylum seekers would be "extremely detrimental to access to justice". 

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