A loophole in the law has been discovered by the Telegraph that allows refugees and asylum seekers with criminal convictions to drive minicabs without having to disclose their past.
Concern has been raised by the Telegraph in relation to refugees and asylum seekers applying to drive taxicabs, whereby they are not expected to disclose any crimes they may have committed before arriving in the UK.
The legal loophole currently exists as licensing authorities cannot conduct background checks on those claiming sanctuary because it may affect their refugee and asylum applications, placing them at risk of being sent home.
The gap in the law is contained in a Transport for London (TfL) document on “private hire driving licensing” applications.
The application states: “With regards to overseas criminal records checks, no such checks will be made in respect of those applicants who declare that they are in possession of, or who have applied for, refugee or asylum status.”
Calls for the loophole to be plugged have come from the Conservative and UK Independence (UKIP) parties.
In an interview with the Daily Express, Conservative MP, Nick de Bois, said: “They should not be offering licences to those they can’t check on. They could be putting vulnerable members of the public in the hands of thieves, murderers and rapists. It beggars belief.”
Adding weight to the argument, Lawrence Webb, UKIP candidate in Hornchurch and Upminster in Essex, insisted that: “No one should be issued with a minicab licence unless they have first undergone a criminal records check. If that prevents foreign nationals from driving a cab, so be it.”
In other circumstances, drivers who apply for a taxi licence are expected to undergo criminal checks and people from outside the European Union, who have spent more than three months overseas in the previous three years, must provide a “letter of good conduct” from the embassy of their home country.
However, asylum seekers and refugees are seldom able to produce a certificate from their home country, which exempts them from having to disclose any prior convictions.
Helen Chapman of TfL explained: “Any applicant that has lived in a country other than the UK for more than three months within the last three years is required to produce a certificate of good conduct. We recognise this may not be possible if an applicant is granted asylum or refugee status and, where applicable, these applicants will be required to provide a certificate from any other country of residence within the last three years. They will also be required to provide evidence of their certificate of registration or a letter from the Border and Immigration Agency,” The Telegraph reports.