David Cameron has been criticised for bringing along photographers to an immigration raid on Thursday morning.
Both home secretary Theresa May and the prime minister joined enforcement officers as they raided homes in Southall on Thursday morning, on the same day the government said it would crack down on illegal immigrants.
Their presence was criticised by the Migrants' Rights Network, a spokesperson for which told BuzzFeed News that the photos appear to show that current legislation is effective.
"It's a bit ironic that they're introducing new laws when it seems that the old laws are already working if they can go on raids," a spokesperson said.
Labour MP and former shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry suggested that the ministerial presence on the raid was "as effective" as vans released by the home office last year which told illegal immigrants to "go home".
The former shadow attorney general asked whether police had to delay their operations to let the ministers make a point. "Why hadn't these landlords, if they were putting illegal immigrants up, been prosecuted before?" she asked. "Did they [enforcement officers] wait until today for this?"
The home office declined to provide any details of the raid, including whether or not anyone was found to be living at the properties illegally, whether or not ministers played an operational role, or if they joined similar raids on a regular basis.
Instead a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the home office rarely talked about these operations because "clearly migration is something we're quite serious about cracking down on, the net migration figure, and we don't want to be giving out lots and lots of details which might allow people who don't want to be found to evade detection."
He said he would provide BuzzFeed News with details of whether anyone was caught if "the powers that be upstairs" allowed the press officers to release the information.
Although the home office refused to give out specific details, a caption on the photograph published by the Press Association said "officers raided residential properties looking for illegal immigrants in Southall".
The prime minister and home secretary were photographed inside what appears to be the living room of one of the residences that was part of the raid.
This isn't the first time the prime minister has been criticised for using a raid as a PR stunt. In July last year, the director of a human rights organisation said ministerial presence was "constitutionally inappropriate."
In a speech following the raid, the prime minister promised to make "Britain a less attractive place to come and work illegally".
Statistics released this morning showed that net migration – the number of people who entered the UK subtracted by the number that chose the leave the country – had increased to 318,000. This is despite a pledge by the Conservatives to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands".
Cameron said: "Uncontrolled immigration can damage our labour market and push down wages. It means too many people entering the UK legally but staying illegally. The British people want these things sorted."
As part of new "radical" legislation, the government would seize the salaries of immigrants who are working in the country illegally.
Theresa May said that there were many migrants still in the workforce because they had overstayed their initial visas.
Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Siraj Datoo at email@example.com.
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