In most circumstances, "targets" have proved to be a public policy nightmare. But Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah's suggestion of targets for immigration (October) could just be an exception. Properly constructed, they could cast some daylight on a murky area now marked by deep public distrust.
The present situation benefits only the extreme right. Sriskandarajah's suggestion of an independent panel could help to reassure the public, who are understandably concerned abut the doubling of immigration in recent years. But both the composition and remit of the independent body he suggests would need considerable care. Canadian experience should be a warning, not an example.
In Canada, the immigration and refugee board fell into the hands of political appointees with predictable results. James Bissett, a former Canadian ambassador who served as head of the Canadian immigration service from 1985-90, recently described Canada's asylum system as "a morally bankrupt charade."
No such body should have responsibility for policy. The issue is far too important to be hived off. It affects our daily lives and futures so greatly that it must remain the clear responsibility of the home secretary, answerable to parliament and to the electorate.
Sir Andrew Green is a former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Syria.
© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green
Prospect Magazine, November, 2004