London: Britain today launched a major crackdown on landlords -- many of them of Indian origin -- who construct illegal extensions to their houses dubbed as "beds in sheds" and rent them out to illegal immigrants at exorbitant prices in parts of London and elsewhere.
During a surprise visit recently to six such 'beds in sheds' in Ealing, west London, two ministers -- Damian Green (Immigration) and Grant Shapps (Housing) -- found 16 Indian illegal immigrants living there in what were described as "dangerous living conditions".
Green and Shapps issued a new guidance to local councils making clear the powers at their disposal to shut down the 'beds in sheds' that blight entire neighbourhoods and take action against other bad practices by landlords such as overcrowding and poor maintenance.
During the visit, official sources said, Shapps and Green encountered 39 individual tenants, 22 of whom were illegal immigrants, including the 16 Indians.
Shapps described owners of the 'beds in sheds' as "rogue landlords". The official sources said such 'tenants' can often find it difficult to return home quickly with some having destroyed their passports to avoid removal, often leaving them to either live in these 'beds in sheds' or face living on the streets.
In May, Shapps and Green announced a task force with a 1.8 million pounds funding to deal with such landlords and 'tenants' living in squalid conditions, many of whom figure in reports splashed in the pages of the tabloid press.
Such recent reports have mostly identified the 'tenants' as Indian citizens who are in the country illegally, and turn to landlords of Indian origin with settled status to provide them shelter.
In the process, the 'tenants' face exploitation and are unable to approach authorities due to their illegal immigration status. Green said: "The UK Border Agency continues to gather intelligence about those illegally in the country. Those with no right to be in the UK must leave the country. If they need
help to leave the country voluntarily we will offer it but if they refuse we will enforce their removal."
Shapps said: "It's simply unacceptable that people are living in squalid, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords more interested in a quick profit rather than their basic responsibilities."
He added: "The actions of these rogue landlords are helping fuel illegal working and benefit fraud and creates a shadow housing market that carries dangers to people's health as well as community relations."