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Immigration minister: bank accounts could be wrongly frozen for a year


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Immigration minister Brandon Lewis had rather a torrid time before the Home Affairs committee of MPs this morning. Committee chair Yvette Cooper raised concerns about the new requirements for banks to freeze or close the bank accounts of anyone who shows up in a Home Office database of people illegally in the UK.

As recently identified on Free Movement, a major problem with this particular eddy of the “hostile environment” is the overwhelming likelihood of Home Office misidentification combined with the lack of a proper appeal process for correcting errors. Lewis could point only to the Home Office’s own internal checks and the general immigration appeals process. Immigration appeals now take a year on average, during which time he admitted accounts could remain closed.

Cooper was not impressed:

“You are saying that people, with no independent check, could have all of their assets, all of their bank accounts frozen for 12 months, starting from January. And this is from the Home Office which currently routinely loses 40% of its appeals to the immigration tribunals. This is from the Home Office where the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration found that UKVI could not even provide 21 of the 160 files that they requested for sampling, they found a whole series of inaccurate or incomplete decisions in the sampling that they had done, they found a third of cases being inappropriately marked as complex to set them outside the service standards. These are the findings of the independent border inspector. You have a serious problem with the accuracy of Home Office decisions and you are expecting people to wait for 12 months with their bank accounts frozen for an independent appeals process to come through?

The reply:

Let me come back to you in terms of the details of the follow-up with the Home Office system, because the way that the system works is going through the banks, then it comes back to the Home Office, and I will come back to you on the details of their options after that.

If people who fall victim to an incorrect Home Office decision to freeze their account do have some options, further to the unsatisfactory general complaints route we outlined last month, that would be welcome.

You can watch the full exchange here.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.