Asylum Seekers - A Small Part of the Story'…

May 22, 2003

Claims about the 'success' of the Government's efforts to reduce the numbers of asylum seekers reveal a fundamental inconsistency at the heart of their overall immigration policy says think-tank Migrationwatch.

Its latest paper, issued today, demonstrates that asylum seeker numbers are, in fact, a fairly small part of the overall immigration issue.

'Government policy is a mystery,' said Migrationwatch chairman, Sir Andrew Green.

'They have doubled immigration. They are now trying to close the back door to Britain for 100,000 asylum seekers on the grounds that many are economic migrants. But at the same time they are opening the front door to about 150,000 work permit holders and their dependants every year as well as a potentially large number of East Europeans from next year.

'This island is already overcrowded. Yet the population is expected to grow by another four million in the next 25 years. Two thirds of migrants go to London and the South East.

'What is the Government doing?' he asked.

Sir Andrew said it would be unfortunate if today's 'success' was used to deflect attention from the wider picture and from the impact on society and on our public services of the highest levels of immigration in our history.

The Group's latest paper 'unmanaged migration' points out that while actively encouraging migration on a very large scale the 'tools' to manage it are not in place. In particular, there is no check on foreigners leaving the country when they should. This results in the chaotic system we now have and growing public concern - as the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons recently pointed out.

The Migrationwatch paper looks at gross immigration as a measure of the task of assimilation and integration which our society faces. It covers those who are known to have entered Britain either with an intention of staying or with an option to stay indefinitely. The number who leaves is not accurately known because there are no checks on the departures of foreign nationals.

'We estimate that gross long-term migration into the UK from outside the present European Union has more than doubled from 186,000 in 1997 to 379,000 in 2002,' said Sir Andrew.

'The continued expansion of the work permit system and migration from the new members of the European Union could increase this figure further to 425,000 in 2004. This will be balanced by departures (not necessarily of the same people) of about 200,000 people a year.'

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