Illegal immigrants allowed to work by British officials
Opposition parties today hit out at the Government for appearing to turn a blind eye to illegal immigrants looking for work in the UK in a bid to meet targets on asylum.
A lack of resources is preventing the Immigration Service from investigating possible breaches of employment law, employment agencies have claimed.
Last month Home Secretary John Reid urged the public to inform on companies who take on people who do not have the right permits.
But half of employment agencies surveyed for a BBC investigation that say they have raised concerns about illegal workers claim the Immigration Service did not take decisive action.
And a Home Office spokesman conceded today: "Resources and operations always have to be prioritised."
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said he was "astonished" by the reports, warning: "Others will be encouraged if they believe the system is as slack as we have heard.
"I think the fact that this is so openly being carried on, undoubtedly reduces confidence in the system."
He denied more money was needed but funds could be reallocated from elsewhere in the budget. to tackle the "very, very obvious manifestation of the failure of the system," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davies said little had changed since Beverly Hughes was forced to resign in 2004 after claims of alleged bypassing of proper checks to cut the backlog of immigration requests.
"It's not a surprise. It's come up time and time again," he said.
"This comes as a direction from the highest level in Immigration and Nationality but also frankly it is known about by ministers.
"Ministers know it's going on and they can't deny it."
He said the Home Office was "lurching from one target to another", adding: "This is a direct outcome of Government policy and is a piece of very bad management, with serious consequences to individual citizens.
"Vulnerable people are being looked after by people with no records whatsoever - quite the opposite of what the Government claims its policy is."
One employment agency recruiting for the care and nursing sector claimed it highlighted the cases of three people with false documents last year and was told by the UK Immigration Service (UKIS) to keep them in work so their whereabouts was known.
But after five months no action was taken, with a lack of resources allegedly cited as the reason.
An online survey of 425 recruitment agencies conducted by industry body the Recruitment and Employment Confederation suggested three-quarters of agencies had spotted suspect documents.
A quarter did not even contact the Immigration Service, with a third saying UKIS was "unhelpful" when the agency reported someone with suspect documents trying to get work.
Almost half said the Immigration Service did not take decisive action.
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