The UK pledge to grant 5.4 million people the right to come to the UK and settle permanently in the midst of a global health crisis is the opposite of ‘taking back control’ as Ministers pledged.
The government have essentially abandoned control over access to long-term immigration for 5.4 million people currently residing in Hong Kong. This will strike many of the 30 million people in the UK who favour tighter immigration control as deeply unwelcome in view of successive governments’ clear and repeated promises to deliver it.
The 5.4 million total is comprised of:
- 5.2 million British National (Overseas) who will be free to come to the UK and to stay for as long as they wish, including having the right to settle permanently.
- The same privilege has been extended to nearly 200,000 young Hong Kongers aged between 18 and 23 who no longer qualify as dependants but have been included because their generation was active in the recent protests.
However, in addition there are another two million Hong Kongers who are not BN(O) citizens but who can, at present, enter the UK without first obtaining a visit visa. In practice, they would then be able to claim asylum on arrival in the almost certain knowledge that the British authorities will not be able, or probably willing, to return them to Hong Kong.
The government’s central estimate is just under 300,000 arrivals over five years, of which 120,000 are expected to arrive in the first year.
The UK government has a poor record when it comes to making predictions on migration (e.g. Tony Blair’s administration massively underestimated the number of arrivals from former communist states after the 2004 EU enlargement). Their recent estimates of the numbers that would take up the new Home Kong route to settlement are based largely on the numbers of people who have applied, and are in the process of applying, for a new British National (Overseas) passport.
Of the other nearly five million they expect only a very small fraction. The government also assume that arrivals will fall sharply after the first year. This, of course, depends on events in Hong Kong and more widely; the number could of course increase considerably.
The government mention briefly that their highest estimate of arrivals in the UK is one million in the first five years of whom half a million would potentially come in the first year.
There is clearly a risk that the numbers could rise very rapidly.
Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said
’This scheme involves the right to unlimited immigration for more than five million people from Hong Kong and can only lead to more pressure on housing, the NHS and schools. It is a very far cry from “taking back control”.’