Banks handed secret list of illegal immigrants and ordered to close their accounts in Government crackdown
Ministers are to give banks a secret list of illegal immigrants suspected of hiding in the UK and order them to close their bank accounts.
The move comes as part of a fresh push to force those who have entered Britain illegally out of the country.
In her first intervention since being promoted as immigration minister in Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle, Caroline Nokes warned she will not ‘turn a blind eye’ to those who abuse the system.
She said banks will be told to trawl through around 70 million accounts to check if they have been set up by people who sneaked into the country or overstayers.
If the authorities suspect criminal activity they can hold the money and rule that it is only returned when a person has left the country.
The Home Office hopes to catch over 6,000 illegal immigrants in the first year of the new policy, according to an official forecast.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph Ms Nokes said: ‘Those affected by these measures have had every opportunity to regularise their immigration status and have failed or not attempted to do so – we are not prepared to turn a blind eye to such actions.’
She added: ‘Some sections of the community have expressed concerns about this – suggesting it will lead to innocent people having their accounts shut down.
‘Let me be clear – that is not the case. Banking services for individuals, including those granted refugee status, and British citizens who satisfy commercial requirements for opening and operating an account will not be affected.
‘They have no reason to fear these measures
The purpose is to make it difficult for illegal migrants… to enter or remain in the UK and to encourage them to return home.’
It comes after the Home Office ordered a crackdown immigrants renting property n the the UK.
A fleet of measures were introduced to enable landlords to evict illegal immigrant tenants more easily by allowing them to end a tenancy when a person’s leave to remain in the UK ends.
The secret Whitehall list will be managed by Cifas, an anti-fraud agency.
Ms Nokes said the banking crackdown ‘will prevent known illegal migrants from continuing to operate existing bank accounts’.
She said that law abiding citizens will have nothing to worry a bout an a helpline is being set up to help those who think their account has been out on the list mistakenly.