Is the government right to put more pressure on firms in its crackdown on illegal migrants?

Are businesses just doing the Home Office's job? (Source: Getty)

Steven Woolfe, Ukip’s migration spokesman, says Yes

As the wealthy countries of Europe come to grips with the great wave of human economic migration from the south, UK firms must take on added responsibilities to share the enforcement burden and make things work.

There are good economic, national security, social, public service provision reasons why we ask people to go through proper channels and have the right documents to live and work here. Just as we ask the UK commercial sector to assist in preventing criminal money laundering, stopping the employment of illegal migrant workers is justified.

At the same time, firms should be investing in UK human capital to ensure the best opportunities for indigenous young people and our fellow citizens looking for work.

Of course, the government also needs to step up. First and foremost, it should control UK borders, and ensure that the employment paperwork and procedures that businesses are asked to check are simple, clear and easily understood.

Philippe Legrain, visiting senior fellow at the European Institute at the LSE, says No

Are you able to tell whether an Italian passport or ID card is genuine? How about a Bulgarian one?

Since anyone holding such documents has a right to work in the UK, an employer need make no further checks in such cases, according to gov.uk, the government’s website. But if you make a mistake, you can be fined up to £20,000 per worker. And if you’re found to have “knowingly employed” an illegal worker, you face up to two years in jail and an unlimited fine.

And that’s just one way in which an employer could get caught out.

That is an unreasonable burden, especially on small businesses – and it could open them up to discrimination charges if they play it safe by not recruiting foreign workers.

Businesses can only ask the Home Office to check an employee’s immigration status in very specific circumstances.

It is important to tackle abuse, but businesses shouldn’t be expected to do the Home Office’s job.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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