Data sharing with banks: FOI update

In November, MRN submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request concerning the Home Office resuming sharing data with banks and building societies to prevent undocumented migrants from holding bank accounts. For five of the eight questions, we did not receive full answers, instead directed to various Government pages; three of these questions were partially answered in this way.

The Home Office re-started data-sharing with banks and building societies on 6th April 2023 and has instructed them to close 7629 people’s accounts, but does not hold data on the rate of wrongful closure.

Demographic data is held by the Home Office, including age (as a result of recording date of birth) and nationality. Only the names and dates of birth of targeted individuals are shared with banks and building societies. The nationalities of people affected by bank account closures were not shared with us.

Third-party private companies

In response to our questions on which private companies have been commissioned in the sharing of migrants’ data with the financial sector, the Home Office stated it has not commissioned any private companies. It went on to state that third pirates would only be involved where banks and building societies have elected to use them to access the data. This would be an arrangement between the banks and building societies, and the third-party provider. 

However, in regard to the anti-fraud organisation that the Home Office is using to share people’s details with banks and building societies, the Home Office uses Synectics Solutions Ltd. to share people’s details with banks, with details provided from the immigration database. This information is generally shared on a weekly basis, with exemptions made more frequently if required. Banks and building societies are obliged to carry out their checks on a quarterly basis.

The number of people affected by bank account closures at the instruction of the Government for migration-related reasons is highly concerning. These data-sharing practices are discriminatory and severely affect their ability to live freely in the UK. It also means that migrants have fewer protections for the privacy of their data and are subjected to increased surveillance. This is why we will be continuing to challenge Home Office data-sharing with the financial sector. 

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