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Illegal immigration should be made illegal says MP


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It would help to reduce the attractiveness of this country as a destination for illegal immigrants if being an illegal immigrant was made a specific criminal offence…David Nuttall MP

The clue is in the word “illegal”, David. There are a very wide range of criminal offences covering all types of, er, illegal behaviour. Not just in immigration law, either! In an immigration context, though, section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 (“title: Illegal entry and similar offences”) is probably the main one. It makes it a criminal offence to enter the UK illegally or knowingly to overstay.

Says a lot about the quality of our Members of Parliament and the level of “debate” around the issue of immigration.

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Colin Yeo

Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


7 Responses

  1. Perhaps what he meant to say is “we should prosecute illegal immigrants for the existing criminal offences they have committed”. Which would be wrong-headed, but at least arguable (what is the point of having criminal offences on the statue book if you aren’t going to prosecute: Answer none and there shouldn’t be any such offenses but I don’t think we’ll sell that to Mr Nuttall).

  2. In accordance with UN General Assembly resolution No. 3449 (9 December 1975), the term ‘illegal’ should not be used to refer to migrants in an irregular situation.


    UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  3. 1975

    Before the relevant criminal offences were entered on the statute book. Should the term “illegal” be used to describe migrants who have commited a criminal offence?

  4. Doh! Obviously my chronology is as bad as my reasoning! 1971 Act came into force before 1975…and anyway, would you call someone speeding along the motorway an “illegal driver”?

    1. Philip, surely the driver would be considered an “illegal driver” if he/she had no licence (permission) to drive because either they never had a licence or because that licence expired or was lost. An offence such as speeding can be committed by a “legal driver” or an “illegal driver” but being an “illegal driver” is, in itself, an offence. An immigrant is an “illegal immigrant” if they do not have permission (licence) to be here either because they never had it or because such permission has expired. An immigrant can be a “legal immigrant” or an “illegal immigrant” and commit an offence, but being an “illegal immigrant” remains, in itself, an offence.

  5. Well, there are thousands of people who do not have permission to be here but have nevertheless not commited any criminal offence under the current legal code.
    (Of course, most of these people are under the age of 10, which in itself would prevent them committing a criminal offence).

    There are two specific offences; “illegal entry” and “overstaying”. They do not succeed in covering everyone who doesn’t have permission to be here.

  6. I was mainly thinking of those born in UK who do not automatically have status. But this also applies to people who used to have some kind of EEA law permission to be here but don’t have it any more, if they never had leave to remain and entered legally. Overstaying (as the offence is written) is only related to leave, not to permission to be here under EEA law.