[C]HRIS MANN: Illegal immigrants are to be denied bank accounts, stripped of driving licences, and stopped from renting, in a crackdown to drive them out of Britain. The Home Secretary Theresa May says it’s about creating a really hostile environment for those who shouldn’t be here. But what impact could it have on everyone else? It’s been said that if people are here illegally, life should be made difficult for them, and they should be forced to leave. Our political reporter Robin Crystal has more.
ROBIN CRYSTAL: That is certainly the view of the Home Secretary Theresa May, and she thinks this is firmly in line with public opinion.
THERESA MAY: This is about a point of principle. I think if you’re out there and you’re working hard, you’re contributing, you’re paying in to the system, you do question whether people should be able to come into the UK and access the system without paying in. And that’s why most people are saying look it’s not fair. And we need to do something about this.
ROBIN CRYSTAL: And if you look at opinion polls, consistently immigration, concern about immigration, and here of course we’re talking about illegal immigration, comes very high. It’s often second, ahead of concern about housing, health and education. For many people, it’s only the economy which is more of a concern.
CHRIS MANN: So, what’s going to change, according to these proposals?
ROBIN CRYSTAL: A lot. And we’re talking here of change coming in from next year. Let’s take some of them. You will have to make clear if you’re an immigrant, on your driving licence application, that you are eligible for a driving licence. If you’re facing deportation, the number of grounds of appeal against it, for a criminal, a foreign criminal, would be reduced from seventeen to four. If you want to have a bank account, much more stringent checks will have to come in. And if you want to make use of the health service, you are going to have to pay up front every year before you come here at least two hundred pounds a year.
CHRIS MANN: But won’t some of those changes have a much wider effect?
ROBIN CRYSTAL: Well the one which is worrying a lot of people is the one on housing. Now this is a requirement on every single landlord to check out who it is they’re letting a house to. Here’s Chris Town of the Residential Landlords’ Association.
CHRIS TOWN: People seeking accommodation will disappear into the black economy, and the traditional landlords obviously won’t take them. You would have to check every single applicant who approached you for accommodation, whether they were clearly British, or non-British.
ROBIN CRYSTAL: So effectively the worry is for small landlords that they will say, well, I don’t like the look of you. And let’s be blunt here. I’m talking Chris about whether you’re white or not, and they’ll just turn you away. They won’t even bother to make the checks. And they say that the number of documents they would have to look at run into the hundreds, in order to check that somebody is or is not an illegal immigrant. You can imagine what impact that could have on the private rented sector. Now the Government is saying, no, no no, this is just not true. Small firms already have to deal with this kind of check. They’re setting up a special hotline, which landlords can ring. And they’re saying if they don’t get an answer within forty eight hours, the blame will rest with the Government. But also for the landlords there’s a three thousand pound fine for each illegal immigrant they have, if they haven’t carried out the checks. On the health tourism as it’s called, doctors are worried about this. They say that it will put people off getting health care. And as a result it may even lead to the spread of disease in the wider community. So I don’t think anybody is saying this is wrong. They’re just worried about effectively turning people who are in banks, people who are running surgeries, and people who are letting houses, into border control guards.
CHRIS MANN: Robin Crystal there, reporting from Westminster.