Update as of 7:40 a.m. EDT: British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday that he would not abandon his party’s target of reducing net migration below 100,000 even as latest data show a drastic surge in the figures. Speaking at the Home Office, Cameron vowed to abide by what he termed the British electorate’s “instruction to deliver.”
“Today's figures show how far we have to go to reach our goal,” Cameron reportedly said. “If you have uncontrolled immigration, you have uncontrolled pressure on public services.”
However, Cameron added, none of the newly-proposed measures would “stop us rolling out the red carpet … to the brightest and the best,” Cameron reportedly added.
On Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron will announce details of a new immigration bill that will target illegal migration to the U.K. and make the country a “less attractive place to come and work illegally,” according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office. The announcement would come at a time when the country's net migration figures stand close to 2005’s record high.
The new bill will include measures to speed up deportations and close a loophole that prevents the wages of some illegal migrants from being confiscated under the provisions of Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act, 2002.
“We’ll take a radical step -- we’ll make illegal working a criminal offence in its own right. That means wages paid to illegal migrants will be seized as proceeds of crime … and businesses will be told when their workers’ visas expire,” Cameron plans to say in his speech on Thursday, according to the statement. “So if you’re involved in illegal working -- employer or employee -- you’re breaking the law.”
The new bill also includes proposals under the so-called “one nation approach” to allow local councils to crack down on unscrupulous landlords and evict illegal migrants more quickly, and place obligations on banks to check accounts against a database of illegal immigrants.
Under current laws, British firms can be fined up to 20,000 pounds ($31,000) for employing illegal workers.
According to the latest figures, net migration to the U.K. last year stood at 318,000, which is a significant increase from 209,000 in 2013. While overall emigration levels have been relatively stable since 2010, an estimated 641,000 people immigrated to the country in 2014, as compared to 526,000 in the preceding year.
The surge in net migration brings the total to just below the record high of 320,000 under the 2005 Labour government. Although Cameron’s Conservative Party had pledged in 2010 that it will reduce numbers to less than 100,000, the latest figures highlight its failure to do so. Clamping down on illegal immigration was also one of the issues raised by the populist U.K. Independence Party during the recently-concluded elections in the country.
“Our one nation approach will be tougher, fairer and faster,” Cameron will say later today. “With this Immigration Bill, and our wider action, we will put an end to houses packed full of illegal workers; stop illegal migrants stalling deportation; give British people the skills to do the jobs Britain needs.”
Across nations in Europe, governments are struggling to clamp down on scores of migrants attempting to enter Europe through the Mediterranean. While several countries in the region are currently working to hammer out the details of a proposed quota system for member states to accept asylum seekers, Britain has made it clear that it would not accept refugees through such a system.
“The U.K. has a proud history of offering asylum to those who need it most, but we do not believe that a mandatory system of resettlement is the answer,” a British government spokesman reportedly said last week.