A pilot scheme that aims to encourage illegal migrants to leave the UK voluntarily has been launched in London on Monday (22 July).
Vans displaying large adverts, as well as leaflets, posters and messages in local newspapers will be used to highlight the advantages of returning home voluntarily – while making clear enforcement action will be taken if they do not.
Over the next week, two vans will be driven around Hounslow, Barking & Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge and will show residents how many illegal migrants have recently been arrested in their area. They will also show a text number that migrants can message to arrange their return.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said:
We are making it more difficult for people to live and work in the UK illegally. Every single day our enforcement officers are arresting, detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK.
But there is an alternative to being led away in handcuffs. Help and advice can be provided to those who cooperate and return home voluntarily.
This pilot is just another part of the reforms of the immigration system that have cut out abuse and seen net migration drop to its lowest levels in nearly a decade. The Immigration Bill being introduced later this year will build on this work by restricting illegal migrants’ access to benefits and services.
Voluntary returns are the most cost-effective way of removing illegal immigrants and save the taxpayer money. This pilot builds on the government’s current work on voluntary returns, which saw more than 28,000 voluntary departures last year.
The areas were chosen because they have either significantly higher or below average numbers of voluntary returns, meaning that the success of the pilot can be assessed.
Material has also been distributed in areas where illegal migrants are known to frequent, including newsagents, money transfer shops and internet cafes.
The pilot follows the launch of three consultations earlier this month which are looking to regulate illegal migrant access to public services and the right to live and work in the UK.
Forming part of the new Immigration Bill, these proposals include regulating temporary migrants’ access to the NHS, requiring landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and tougher civil penalties for rogue employers that continue to exploit illegal immigrants.