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Employers and landlords who offer work or accommodation to migrants who arrived in Britain by irregular routes face sharply higher fines under the latest attempt by the government to clamp down on asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats.
The move comes as Suella Braverman, home secretary, hopes this week to move the first asylum seekers from hotels into a floating accommodation barge at Portland, Dorset, after a number of delays.
In a week where there will be a renewed focus on the issue of irregular migration, ministers will triple fines for employers regarded as contributing to the “pull factors” that attract people to make the crossing.
In what the government is billing as the biggest shake-up of civil penalties for almost a decade, the fine for employers will be raised from £15,000 for a first breach to up to £45,000 per undocumented worker. Repeat breaches could see fines of up to £60,000 per worker.
For landlords, the fines will increase from £80 per lodger and £1,000 per occupier for a first breach to up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier. The higher penalties will come in at the start of 2024.
“Making it harder for illegal migrants to work and operate in the UK is vital to deterring dangerous, unnecessary small boat crossings,” said Robert Jenrick, immigration minister.
“Unscrupulous landlords and employers who allow illegal working and renting enable the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue. There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks.”
The move comes as data suggests that prime minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats” has so far delivered only modest results.
According to Migration Watch UK there were 15,071 small boat crossings this year up until August 3, 14 per cent fewer than at the same point last year. There were more than 45,000 crossings during the whole of 2022.
Sunak has cast the blame widely for the continued high level of crossings, not least after a Daily Mail investigation found some lawyers helping people claim asylum on the basis of evidence they knew to be false.
Last month Sunak controversially tweeted: “This is what we’re up against. The Labour party, a subset of lawyers, criminal gangs — they’re all on the same side, propping up a system of exploitation that profits from getting people to the UK illegally. I have a plan to stop it.”
The latest initiative adds unscrupulous employers and landlords to the list of people being blamed for the continuation of the problem, although Tory strategists admit that voters are likely to blame the government if the issue is not resolved.
Since 2018, the government says 4,000 civil penalties totalling £74mn have been issued to employers. Meanwhile, landlords have been hit with more than 230 civil penalties worth a total of £215,500 since 2018.