Illegal au pairs could land householders in prison

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The Independent Online

Families whose desperation to find an affordable nanny leads them to hire an illegal immigrant face fines of up to £2,000 or a two-year jail sentence.

A concerted drive to tackle the booming black market for foreign bar and restaurant staff, shopworkers and builders, as well as for child-carers, was announced by the Government yesterday. Although it is primarily aimed at gangmasters and shady employment agencies, the move could also hit householders who take on non-EU nannies, au pairs and cleaners without checking their immigration status.

They could be liable to on-the-spot fines of up to £2,000 for every employee they have taken on who does not have permission to be in Britain and could face prosecution under a separate offence of knowingly employing an illegal worker, which could carry two years' imprisonment or an unlimited fine.

Launching the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, Tony McNulty, the Immigration minister, said householders would not be fined for hiring illegal immigrants as tradesmen, because employment law defines that as purchasing a service.

Employers will be required to check that their migrant workers are entitled to be in this country.

Mr McNulty said the Bill would include a code of practice designed to stop employers breaking race laws. He said he hoped the Bill, alongside other immigration schemes such as a points system for economic migrants, could become law by next spring

Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "This is the equivalent of asking employers to act as immigration officers and do the Home Office's dirty work.

The Bill also introduces fingerprinting for all visa applicants and limits the rights of appeal for foreigners refused entry to work or study in Britain.