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UK to close bank accounts held by illegal immigrants

Categories : Cash is trust, Cash protects privacy and anonymity
October 6, 2017
Tags : Consumers, Privacy and anonymity, Regulation, Regulators, United Kingdom
Theresa May's government is pushing the search for illegal immigrants one step further requiring banks and financial institutions to check account holder residency irregularities starting January.
Communication Team / Equipo de Comunicación

Theresa May’s measures for the detection of illegal immigrants in the UK is about to take a new dimension starting January. Indeed, banks will be required to check 70 million accounts in search for customers with residence status irregularities on a quarterly basis. This action is part of the 2016 Immigration Act adopted last December, which aims to create a “hostile environment” for people settling illegally in Great Britain.

To detect these, financial institutions will have to crosscheck account holders’ personal information with a database supplied by Cifas – an anti-fraud organisation attached to the Home Office. Accounts held by illegal immigrants will be instantly closed down or frozen. This is designed to encourage people residing illegally in the UK to leave the country voluntarily, offering them a chance to secure their money once they exit the territory. With this procedure, the Home Office expects to identify about 6,000 visa overstayers, dismissed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders within a year. Following the Brexit referendum, the scheme could be extended to EU citizens, causing deep concerns in multicultural cities.

The authorities ensure that legal citizens will not be affected by the checks, but immigration welfare activists assert that the Home Office’ system cannot be trusted as recent records indicate, and that migrants with valid resident permits may be falsely prosecuted. Satbir Singh – Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Migrants – reminded that immigration status is complex and that the Home Office is known to make errors.   

This proves how governments and financial institutions can exercise full control over consumer assets stored in the banking system, using personal information to their detriment. Such measures represent a direct threat to a citizen’s right to anonymity and could have terrible repercussions in the advent of an error.

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