The debate over illegal immigration frequently leads to discussions about crime, employment, and social benefits. Rarely do we discuss the topic in light of driving licences. Perhaps that should change. Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request proffered by the BBC, we now know that tens of thousands of driving licences have been removed from illegal immigrants found living in the UK.
The BBC reports that some 27,000 drivers have had their licences revoked in the last two years alone. Even more alarming is data that shows the number of voided licences in 2016 was up 22% from the year before. The rise is probably a combination of greater enforcement efforts and larger numbers of illegal immigrants who originally obtained their licences legally.
Overstaying Their Welcome
Data suggests that most of the illegal immigrants who lost their driving licences actually obtained those licences while their immigration visas were still valid. They were only found to be illegal once the visas had expired. In essence, overstaying their welcome is what led to their status as illegals and resulted in the revocation of their licences.
Despite the number of voided driving licences being relatively small compared to the number of valid licences in circulation, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that tens of thousands of drivers are no longer eligible to drive. But what do we do about the fact that the affected drivers are still here illegally?
As the BBC explains, the driving licence is one of the most recognised forms of ID in the UK, second only to the passport. The driving licence can be used to do all sorts of things, from opening a bank account to getting a job. When the Home Office gave the DVLA the authority to revoke driving licences, the net effect of that authority went far beyond just getting drivers off the road. It also gave government agencies another tool to combat illegal immigration.
The Law as It Stands
The UK Immigration Act 2014 is the law that gave the DVLA revocation power over driving licences issued to immigrants. The law's effects are far more reaching than just licencerevocation, though. It also allows for checking the legal status of renters, assessing a health surcharge when accessing NHS services, and the removal of immigrants without appeal if they pose a security risk.
By all accounts, the law has been good as a tool for helping to control immigration. As far as driver licences are concerned, it gives the government more control over who has a licence and who doesn't. We now know the results. Hopefully, the number of illegal immigrants with driving licences in their possession will fall this year. If not, perhaps it might be time to up the ante a bit.
1.BBC – http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-kent-38981506