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Britain targets illegal immigrants

LONDON — The British government took another crack at curbing illegal immigration on Thursday, introducing a bill that would require immigration checks to accompany private housing applications and health care access.

The bill has been slammed by lawyers and human rights campaigners, who warn it will lead to discrimination.

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Immigration is a sensitive political issue in Britain given the country’s struggling economy and cuts in public services.

The conservative-led government of Prime Minister David Cameron wants to reduce net migration from non-European countries from 176,000 last year to fewer than 100,000 before the 2015 election.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper said Thursday that the new bill will stop migrants from using public services they are not entitled to and reduce the factors which encourage people to come to Britain.

Critics argued the proposals could lead to racial discrimination and hurt immigrants in the UK legally. For instance, private landlords will face fines for not carrying out the proper checks under the legislation.

But ‘‘checking immigration status is complicated so landlords may shy away from [renting] to anyone who they believe not to be British,’’ said Gavin Smart, of the Chartered Institute of Housing.

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