Yes, we do need some immigration. And of course we should offer asylum. But there is only so much any society can take
By Andrew Green
Chairman, Migration Watch UK
The Daily Mail, London, 15 March, 2006
So if you thought the asylum system was a shambles, you were dead right. A devastating report by an all-party House of Commons committee has lifted the lid on just how bad things are behind the scenes.
For years, the Home Office has sought to conceal the real state of affairs — aided and abetted by the asylum industry, which must have known what was going on but chose to remain silent.
The report focuses on the failure of the Home Office to remove asylum-seekers whose cases have been rejected.
The Public Accounts Committee concludes, in remarkably tough terms, that ‘the UK’s asylum
policy has been undermined by the inability of the Home Office to deal promptly with asylum-seekers whose applications fail . . . it is difficult to conclude that the taxpayer is obtaining value for money . . .’
Quite so. The numbers are stark. Since the present Government came to power in 1997, about 500,000 people have claimed asylum, but 300,000 have been rejected and refused permission to stay in Britain.
So what happened to them? Well, most of them are still here. Only one in four has been removed, voluntarily or otherwise.
The Government doesn’t even know how many are still here — not even roughly. It puts the figure at somewhere between 155,000 and 283,000. That is just the applicants themselves.
If you add another 20 per cent for dependents, you are looking at anything up to 340,000 people still in Britain who have no right to be here.
And this report tells us for the first time that the Home Office has completely lost touch with three-quarters of them, even including 400 criminals who should have been deported.
At the moment, the Government is making no inroads into this number. The committee concluded that, even if the present rate of removals was applied to that total, it would take ten to 18 years to remove them.
All this is the end result of a legal process that costs half a million pounds a day and drags on
for months, if not years. Yet those who fail too often disappear, making the law look like the proverbial ass.
Nor is there much cheer for the taxpayers who are forking out £5 million a day on this process (including legal costs), much of it to little or no effect.
But the ultimate irony is that it is the genuine refugees who suffer. Last year, 75 per cent of cases were rejected, but the one in four who was found to be genuine was caught up in the widespread abuse (David Blunkett’s description) that is causing endless delays.
And, even when granted asylum, they will find themselves the object of suspicion by a public who are well aware that many others have been making false claims.
What is to be done? The Government is talking about tagging asylum-seekers while their cases are heard, and the latest gimmick is voicerecognition.
It is surely obvious that both these ploys are simply windowdressing. It will be perfectly open to an asylum-seeker, when he thinks his case will fail, to take off his tag and do a runner. So much for technology.
No. The only humane way forward is a much faster process altogether. This means much more use of detention so that most asylum-seekers are detained while their cases are decided.
This would, of itself, reduce delays by enabling legal advice and interpretation to be available on
the spot. Those found to be genuine could then receive the welcome they deserve, while false claimants would be much easier to remove.
Meanwhile, the Government is trumpeting the fall in the number of asylum claimants. But it may well be that people are still coming but are not claiming asylum, at least until they are discovered. Even when they are discovered, they may simply be released.
What the Government is not so keen to tell us is that other forms of immigration are going up as asylum claims come down. Foreign immigration has trebled under the present Government. In 2004, it reached 342,000, of which only about 40,000 were asylum-seekers. So immigration, generally, is now seven times that of asylum.
This is where the major problem lies. The Government has deliberately encouraged largescale immigration without first securing our borders.
It has also, alone among major European countries, opened our labour market to citizens of the new Eastern European members of the EU on the basis of an absurdly low estimate of the numbers likely to come: 5,000 to 13,000 a year, it said.
So far, 345,000 have come. No one knows how many have gone home.
The Government claims that all of this is wonderful news for the economy. Of course, some immigration is certainly valuable, indeed inevitable, in an open economy. But that is not the same thing as largescale immigration.
All international studies show that the benefit to the host community is very small. Most of the benefit goes to immigrants — which, of course, is why they come.
On the present scale, immigration has a major impact on our infrastructure. Only yesterday, the Government issued household projections which showed that 65,000 houses will be needed every year simply for immigrants. That amounts to one-and-ahalf million houses in the next 23 years.
The Government has recently raised its target for house construction from 150,000 a year to 200,000 a year, with huge effects throughout England. We can now see that this recent increase is entirely down to immigration.
Even more important is the impact on our society. The head of the Commission for Racial Equality said recently that ‘we are sleepwalking towards segregation’. He is right, although he dares not make the link with immigration.
The truth is that we cannot integrate a third of a million people into our society every year.
That is obviously impossible, and everyone with an ounce of common sense recognises that to be the case.
It is time the Government addressed this major issue which, as a result of its sheer carelessness, confronts our society.
Sir Andrew Green is a former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Syria.
© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green
The Daily Mail, London, 15 March, 2006