March 09, 2009

The cause of the highest levels of immigration the UK has ever seen is not, as the government claims, global population movement but rather a series of failures of Government policies, says a new report out today from think tank Migrationwatch – “How did immigration get out of control?"

Now that immigration regularly features high on the list of public concerns the Government have tried to promote the view that world trends have been responsible for a trebling of net foreign immigration since 1997. However, the report demonstrates that this is simply a ‘smokescreen’ to disguise the way in which UK immigration and asylum policy has been mismanaged for a decade.

‘The government seems to make a habit of blaming current ills on ‘global forces’ but our analysis shows that this problem is almost entirely ‘home grown’. It could, and should, have been more competently managed, so preventing the rising tide of resentment among the public,’ said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch.

The report shows that the percentage of the world population who are international migrants increased somewhat- from 2.5% in 1960 to 3.0 percent in 2005. The pattern in Britain has been quite different. The percentage of migrants in the UK – that is persons born outside the country - increased by only just over 1% in the first 30 years - from 4.5% in 1961 to 5.8 % in 1991. It then accelerated, doubling to 11% in 2008.

The report also demonstrates that comparisons with major European countries are often irrelevant because their demography is completely different. For example, the population of Germany would decline by 25% in mid century without immigration, whereas that of France and the UK would still increase.

Until 1997 it was the policy of successive British governments to minimise immigration into the UK, subject to the needs of the labour market and obligations to dependants and international conventions. Indeed, until 1996 government statisticians assumed in their population projections that net immigration would be zero over the long term.

Since then a series of policy measures has contributed to the rapid increase in immigration:

Embarkation controls – because of the total abolition of embarkation controls (begun in 1994 and completed in 1998) foreigners arriving on time limited visas became aware that there was no check on their departure and, as Mr Blunkett- then Home Secretary - later admitted on television, the government now has "no idea" who is in Britain.

The Primary Purpose Rule – in 1997 the requirement that the applicant should show "that the marriage was not entered into primarily to obtain admission to the United Kingdom" was abolished. Immigration by spouses has increased by over 50% since then.

Asylum – control of the asylum system was lost for several years so contributing considerably to net immigration, particularly when dependants are included. The number whose claim is rejected still exceeds the number removed.

Economic migration - Since about 2000, the government have specifically encouraged the arrival of economic migrants. The number of work permits issued has trebled since 1997.

East European workers - the forecast of numbers coming to the UK was wrong by a factor of at least 10 when, unlike most EU partners, the Government failed to impose any transitional controls over numbers.

‘Many people are at a loss to know how all this was allowed to happen’, said Sir Andrew. ‘The true story is that the government has held public opinion in contempt for years. Despite having dismantled border controls, they deliberately encouraged immigration, partly to make the economic growth figures look better. The fact that the extra population cancelled out any real benefit to the resident population was repeatedly denied until exposed by a major investigation last April by the highly authoritative Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘We now face a massive increase in population just as our economy is struggling. Some apologies from the government would be in order.’

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