"It's important for us as a government to send out a message."
Landlords in the West Midlands who rent property to illegal immigrants will face a £3,000 fine.
Under the Immigration Act 2014, the responsibility of checking a tenant’s immigration status lies heavily with the landlord, in these new proposals.
Dubbed as the “Right to Rent” scheme, the pilot scheme, which was launched on Monday 1st December 2014, applies to Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley, and Wolverhampton.
The Home Office Scheme states that a prospective tenant’s identity and citizenship must be checked by viewing passports or biometric residence permit.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “In most cases landlords will be able to carry out the checks themselves by asking to see the passport or permit and then photocopying (and keeping) it, without having to request a check on a person’s right to be in the UK via the www.gov.uk website.
“In a limited number of cases, such as where tenants don’t have their documents due to an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can request a check using the ‘right to rent’ tool on the website.”
British Asian Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West, Paul Uppal, whose constituency will be affected by the measures, said:
“It’s important for us as a government to send out a message that we’re not only hostile but robust about challenging the issue of illegal immigration. I think it’s the fair thing to do, the right thing to do, and ultimately the reasonable thing to do in the long term.”
Others however, have argued that the measure will not be effective. Popular immigration lawyer, Harjap Singh Bhangal, said: “Illegal immigrants are going to end up buying fake IDs, fake passports, in order to remain here, because that’s what they have been doing in order to work here.”
So what does this mean for those of South Asian origin in Britain, both as landlords, and as newly arrived immigrants?
Ownership of buy-to-let properties has increased exponentially in recent decades, particularly among enterprising individuals in the British Asian community.
On the other hand, despite legislation to limit immigration from the Commonwealth, and from outside of the European Union, Britain has still attracted many immigrants from South Asia, some of whom may be here illegally.
Reaction from landlords and members of the public has been mixed. Harpreet, from Wolverhampton, who is a landlord said: “Landlords should not be doing the job of the government.”
In a similar vein, Pinky, a landlord from Handsworth, said:
“Checking the illegal status of tenants is the responsibility of agents managing these arrangements. Landlords should not be held accountable.”
Sameera, from Walsall, disagreed, however, saying: “We are part of the community and we should be responsible. These issues affect everyone on a societal level, such as school places, crime, and paying taxes.”
Ashraf from Solihull said: “It might be good to stop landlords from providing below standard accommodation, with problems such as overcrowding.”
Kav, a landlord from Moseley: “It’s good to stay on the right side of the law.”
But he added: “If the government gave £1,000 for each illegal immigrant found, that would be more effective.
Much is being attempted by the government to tackle illegal immigration issues that are affecting our shores. Currently, employers face a £20,000 fine for employing illegal immigrants.
Banks are required to check the immigration status of customers before allowing them to open up bank accounts. And only those with the legal right to live in the UK can obtain a driving license. Now landlords will also be made accountable.
An evaluation of the pilot scheme will be made by the Home Office in the spring of 2015, when it will be decided whether the scheme will be extended to other parts of the UK.