Immigration: What to do about Labour’s Enduring Legacy to Britain


By Alp Mehmet, Advisory Council Migration Watch
Published in eGovMonitor, 4 March, 2011

Immigration on Labour’s watch reached a total of 3.2 million - the highest ever in numerical terms and the largest in relation to population for over a thousand years. The author a former immigration officer and a British ambassador examines this.

The only two subsequent immigrations – the Huguenots in the 17th century and the Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries were minor by comparison with recent inflows. Asians expelled by Idi Amin in the 1970s are often quoted as a successful immigrant community but people forget that they were, in all, 27,000 spread over two years (I recall that period of immigration history well because I was an immigration officer at the time). Net foreign immigration over the past five years has averaged 24,000 a month.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, released on Thursday, show that net immigration in the year to June 2010 was over 226,000 and the number of those allowed to settle here in 2010 was 237,890, a 22% increase on 2009. This is madness and serves no-one’s interests, least of all the interests of immigrants already here. The argument that we need the skills and that immigration boosts the economy simply doesn’t wash with 77% British people, who want immigration reduced.

If the scale of immigration continues at the present rate the population of Britain will reach 70 million in 20 years with 68% of the increase the result of immigration. That is why Migration Watch welcomes and supports the government’s efforts to limit the number of immigrants coming here and to stem the continuing change in the character of the country. Migration Watch is not alone in seeing such a change taking place. The Institute for Public Policy Research, Labour’s favourite think-tank, commented in its paper, “Immigration under Labour”:

It is no exaggeration to say that immigration under New Labour has changed the face of the country.”

Could all this have been an accident or was it the result of a deliberate policy to boost immigrant numbers in this country.  There is evidence to suggest it was just that. Andrew Neather, a former speech writer to Mr Blair, wrote the following in the Evening Standard on 23 Oct 2009:

“It didn’t just happen: the deliberate policy of ministers  from late 2000 until at least February last year, when the Government introduced a points-based system, was to open up the UK to mass migration... I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. That seemed to me to be a manoeuvre too far.”

They might have told us they were doing it. They could have asked if we wanted the face of the country changed. Did they give any thought to the additional housing, schools, teachers, doctors, nurses, hospitals and transport, plus all the services that would be required by the additional numbers? 3.2 million people in little more than 12 years without a thought given to their needs. That’s scandalous.

What makes the present scale of immigration especially galling is that we now have 2.5 million looking work, of which nearly one million are 16-24 year olds, while 20% of our graduates remain unemployed.

Even the Labour Party and the IPPR believe immigration has been too high as was demonstrated by the debate on immigration during the leadership campaign. Labour have claimed that the points based system, introduced in 2008, was bringing numbers down. What a load of tosh; just take another look at the figures I referred to earlier. The PBS was, in significant part a cost cutting exercise dreamt up by those with little understanding of immigration control and rushed through to try to show that the government was at last doing something about immigration. This is the only possible explanation for removing the face to face interview - a central feature of our border control for the best part of a century - and replacing it with a system that centres on scoring a sufficient number of points to be automatically granted a visa.

The PBS has become like a one-off exam for which it’s all too easy to cram the night before.  Is it any wonder that the equivalent of the crammer, in the shape of agents and immigration advisers, has sprung up to help visa applicants through the process? And with visa in hand, you can set off for the UK never having seen an immigration official until you arrive at the border, by which time you are all but in the country. This is plainly daft. If the government is going to achieve its objective of net immigration in the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament the PBS will require radical reform with the entry clearance and immigration officers given back some of the authority and discretion taken from them over the past 15-20 years. 

Migration Watch welcomes immigration. On a sensible scale immigration benefits Britain, so long may it continue. But it has to be both controlled and limited. While it can plug skill gaps it must not be in place of training our own workforce. Foreign students make a valuable contribution to our universities and colleges but this cannot be at the expense of the academic excellence that our universities are famous for. Sham and forced marriages, bogus students, non-EU economic migrants, and failed asylum seekers are all immigrant categories that the government has, quite rightly, said it will examine in its efforts to reduce immigration. This broad approach will be essential if net immigration is to be reduced to a level that the British public can accept, indeed welcome.  It is vital for the continued harmony of our society that the issue be tackled and soon.

© Copyright of Alp Mehmet

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