The UK government has announced that people who work in the country illegally will face up to six months in prison.

In its latest crackdown, Britain would also close businesses found to be employing individuals who have no legal right to be in the country.

Some of the details of the new legislation were released on Tuesday after UK government officials received widespread criticism over their handling of the Calais refugee crisis.

Britain argues that some who wish to enter its country illegally are economic migrants.


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Last week, Britain and France announced increased security measures to prevent thousands of people living in makeshift camps in Calais from reaching the UK via the Eurotunnel.

British Interior Minister Theresa May and her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, revealed plans for a "substantial" increase in security guards, higher fences, surveillance cameras, floodlighting and infrared detection technology.

On the new legislation, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: "Anyone who thinks the UK is a soft touch should be in no doubt. If you are here illegally, we will take action to stop you from working, renting a flat, opening a bank account or driving a car."

"Illegal workers will face the prospect of a prison term and rogue employers could have their businesses closed, have their licences removed, or face prosecution if they continue to flout the law," Brokenshire said.

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Earlier in the year the government announced that a new offence of working illegally would allow wages to be seized from culprits as "proceeds of crime".

The Home Office has also said that anyone convicted of the offence could face a sentence of up to six months and an unlimited fine.

Businesses including pubs, off-licences and take-aways, that failed to comply with immigration laws could have their licences revoked.

Officials were also considering whether this power should be extended to cover minicab drivers and operators.

Precise details of the reforms are yet to be released, however it is expected that lower requirements of evidence would be needed to prove offences, by forcing accused businesses to show they have carried out all checks before they employed an individual.

Alp Mehmet, of Migration Watch UK, which campaigns for tighter immigration restrictions, said: "This is not just about not being seen as a soft touch."

"More important is for the message to go out that if you are here illegally and caught working, you and your employer will end up in court," Mehmet said.

Previously announced measures in the legislation include forcing banks to check current accounts against worker databases and imprisoning landlords who let out properties illegally.

On Thursday, the UK government's immigration record will come under scrutiny when the latest official immigration statistics are released.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies