For years the Government denied there was an immigration crisis. Now, as an election looms, they’ve vowed to get tough.
Why should we believe them now?
By Sir Andrew Green, Chairman, MigrationwatchUK
© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green
The Daily Mail, London, 8 February, 2005
The Government is at panic stations. Its spin machine is in overdrive. What is going on? Quite simply, the British people have found their voice.
After years, even decades, of being bludgeoned into silence by false insinuations of racism, people are saying what they really think about present levels of immigration. Sneering at ‘the tabloids’ by the usual suspects will no longer wash.
The opinion polls say it all: 77 per cent disagree that the Government has immigration under control; 75 per cent are concerned about extra pressure on public services and a similar number believe that there are too many immigrants in Britain.
These are astonishing numbers. And it gets worse for the Government. Three quarters of the public do not believe it is being open and honest about immigration and 45 per cent say it will influence their vote at the forthcoming General Election.
This explains the hints, nudges, winks and leaks that emerged over the weekend in the lead-up to yesterday’s announcement of a ‘five-year plan’ for asylum and immigration.
It also explains an extraordinarily defensive article by the Prime Minister in yesterday’s Press. He claims that the reason immigration is a difficult subject is nothing to do with political correctness, nor the risk of being accused of racism.
Really? He could have fooled me. His spin doctors have been smearing my organisation, Migrationwatch, for years.
Even some of the facts in his article were misleading. He said 90 million people pass through our airports every year. He omitted to mention that 60 million of these are British citizens returning home — hardly an immigration problem!
Another 13 million are EU citizens who have freedom of movement to Britain, and millions more are North Americans.
Those posing a potential immigration problem are therefore about one-tenth of the figure he mentioned.
As for a five-year plan? Where has the Government been for the past eight years as our border controls were allowed to crumble? The sheer length of the list of measures proposed by the Government is a damning indictment of its own record on immigration.
A major loophole has been abolition of any effective border controls. Every year, well over a million visas have been issued to visitors and students, but no one bothered to check on their departure.
Now the Government has announced plans for e-borders — electronic borders. An improvement on o-borders (open borders), but terribly late in the day.
Then there are the thousands of sham marriages and tens of thousands of bogus students, not to speak of one-legged roofers. The list goes on.
For years the Government has turned a blind eye to these blatant frauds. Only as an election approached did they begin to stir, but none of these frauds is yet under control.
Another sudden discovery by the Government is the thousands of unaccompanied children dumped on the British taxpayer every year. The cost, for example, to Kent County Council, of a 16-year-old is a massive £300 a week. And a recent court judgment means they may also have to provide support during further education beyond the age of 18.
The millions of pounds the council spends will be reimbursed by central government — that is, the taxpayer — although councillors claim the full amount has not yet been repaid.
In 2003, 3,000 unaccompanied children arrived here claiming asylum. The year before, there were 6,200. This scandal has been going on for years, but the Government has done nothing about it. It has just hushed it up and charged it to the taxpayer.
Now we are promised action. We shall see. The collapse of our border controls has had wider consequences, leading to a substantial number of illegal immigrants. This has led to exploitation of foreign workers that is shameful in the 21st century.
If border controls are a shambles, Government policy is not much better. In fact, there isn’t one. Former Home Secretary David Blunkett famously said: ‘There is no obvious upper limit to legal immigration.’ Yesterday’s announcement did nothing to reverse this absurd statement.
Work permits have been increased by 350 per cent under the present Government to 145,000 a year. Dependents are additional to this total. After four years they can all, at present, apply for permanent settlement, and 95 per cent are granted it virtually automatically, including a famous nanny.
No thought has been given as to whether we need such workers permanently, with the full citizenship rights to which they become entitled. As Migrationwatch pointed out long ago, this will give a huge boost to immigration.
The Government has realised this and is belatedly trying to address the problem. We are told there is to be a points system for the allocation of work permits, and no virtually automatic right to stay permanently.
Not before time. But a crucial element is missing. Will there be an upper limit to economic migration? It seems not.
What does all this amount to? Well, it would be churlish to deny there are some steps forward — if they are taken. But they do not amount to the radical overhaul of the system which the public wishes to see.
Tinkering with the asylum system will not do. Six asylum and immigration acts in 11 years have failed to fix the problems stemming from a Refugee Convention drafted 50 years ago for an entirely different situation.
In any case, asylum is less than one-fifth of foreign immigration, which is approaching a quarter of a million a year. The other major immigration streams are work permits and dependents. These two also have to be gripped.
These latest measures are a start, but they are not enough. Many people are concerned, and rightly so, that we are losing our own culture.
These concerns are dismissed, with typical arrogance, by Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. He said recently: ‘People whingeing about how their communities are being changed are afraid of a shadow, but these people (illegal immigrants) are the real victims of the failure of immigration policy.
‘The public worry about immigration and asylum being out of control, but the real crime is the effective enslavement of large numbers of people.’
Somehow, I don’t think the public agree with his sense of priorities.
Meanwhile, The Observer chimes in, accusing ‘Labour no less than UKIP and the BNP of contributing to a hysterical climate . . .’
They have not realised that the whole scene has been transformed in recent weeks and months. The majority will no longer allow their concerns to be brushed aside.
The truth is that immigration and asylum are indeed out of control. The protection of our borders is a prime responsibility of government, and it has been ducked for years.
The acid test is whether any party will undertake to place a cap on total immigration and manage it sharply downwards. If they do, public opinion will be reassured, and community relations will greatly benefit.
If they will not commit to a clear limit, and the measures required to enforce it, you can be sure that the rest is pre-electoral spin.
Sir Andrew Green is the former British Ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia.
© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green
The Daily Mail, London, 8 February, 2005