Friday, 29 June 2007

European Commission & Sanctions Against Employers of Illegal Migrants

The European Commission recently presented a proposal for a directive, providing for common sanctions and measures against employers of third country nationals who are illegally staying on the territory of the Member States. According to the European Commission, the possibility of finding work encourages illegal immigrants into the EU. Most EU countries already have sanctions against employers of illegal workers in place. Therefore, having a common minimum level of sanctions on employers will guarantee that all Member States are able to apply high sanctions and in this way there would not be a rise of illegal immigrants’ movements to Member States with lower levels of sanctions. Under the Directive, Member States would be required to oblige employers, before recruiting third-country nationals, to check if they have a residence permit or alternative authorisation for their stay. Employers who cannot show that they have carried out those obligations would be liable to sanctions.

Therefore, Member Sates would be obliged to provide for effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions against the employer such as financial penalties and contributions to the costs of returning illegally staying third-country nationals. Moreover, under the current proposal, Member States would be required to provide for criminal penalties for four types of serious cases: repeated infringements, the employment of a significant number of third-country nationals, particularly exploitative working conditions, and circumstances where the employer knows that the worker is a victim of human trafficking.

In those respects, Member States would have to ensure that the criminal offences are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal sanctions. In addition, Member States would have to establish effective complaint mechanisms by which non EU nationals could lodge complaints. Furthermore, under this proposal, Member States would be required to inspect the employment of illegal immigrants in at least 10 per cent of their companies every year. Obviously, it remains very important to tackle illegal employment but this is a job for the Member States as well as legislating on criminal matters. Yet, the UK government has welcomed this proposal to combat illegal working and it will consider the Commission’s proposal. It should be noted that the UK has the choice to opt into the proposal. European business groups are very concerned and according to International Herald Tribune, Matthew Knowles, from the Federation of Small Businesses, argued that “this proposal threatens to hit honest employers with more regulation while dishonest businesses will continue to flout new regulations in the same way that they do with existing rules.”

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