London, United Kingdom (AFP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron will propose new laws to control immigration in a speech Thursday, including giving police the power to seize wages earned by illegal immigrants.
In his first speech on the issue since winning this month’s general election with a surprise majority, Cameron said his centre-right Conservative government would include a new immigration bill in next Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech.
This is when Queen Elizabeth II reads out the new government’s legislative programme at the ceremonial state opening of parliament.
“The truth is it has been too easy to work illegally and employ illegal workers here,” Cameron will say, according to extracts of his speech released in advance by his Downing Street office.
“So we’ll take a radical step — we’ll make illegal working a criminal offence in its own right.”
That would mean that wages paid to people in Britain illegally could be seized by police as “proceeds of crime”, closing a legal loophole, and that businesses will be informed when their workers’ visas expire.
Immigration is a highly sensitive issue in Britain — opinion polling for the election repeatedly identified it as one of the top three most important issues for voters.
The Cameron-led coalition government, which was in power from 2010 until this month’s election, failed to deliver on a promise to cut net migration to below 100,000 per year.
In February, official statistics put the annual figure at 298,000 including a significant increase in the number of people arriving from Romania and Bulgaria, both of which joined the European Union in 2007.
Britain will hold a referendum by 2017 on whether to leave the EU. Cameron has already said he wants to make it harder for EU migrants to claim state benefits.
The Conservatives also want to compel any job seeker from an EU country to leave if they have not found work within six months.
Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May said that economic migrants who try and reach the EU by crossing the Mediterranean should be turned back.
Cameron’s new package of measures on immigration also includes making all banks check their accounts against databases of people in the country illegally and satellite tracking tags for foreign criminals awaiting deportation.