Migration Watch UK Press Release on Labour's Immigration Record

March 05, 2015

In the aftermath of last week’s very disappointing migration statistics, a survey of immigration policy under Labour was issued by Migration Watch UK today.

The outcome of that policy was quite clearly mass immigration. Net foreign migration during the 13 years of Labour government between 1997 and 2010 was 3.6 million. This is four times higher than during the previous 13 years and is equivalent to the population of Britain’s five largest cities outside London – Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Sheffield and Bradford. This total does not include illegal immigrants.

The study considers whether this was deliberate policy or policy failure – in other words “conspiracy or cock-up”. It concludes that it was both. A determination to promote immigration both overtly and, perhaps more importantly, below the radar degenerated into chaos.

The analysis lays bare the whole series of decisions that were taken to soften immigration control with little public discussion of the implications, still less public consent. This may explain why none of these policy changes were foreshadowed in any of Labour’s three election manifestos during the period.

The main decisions were as follows:

  • Exit checks to non-EU destinations were abolished in 1998. Since then there has been no way of knowing who is still in the country. This combined with a relatively trivial number of enforced removals meant that there was no effective deterrent to overstaying.
  • Work migration was liberalised so that work visas quadrupled.
  • Student migration quintupled and tens of thousands of bogus students were granted entry. The evidence suggests that many of these students stayed on in Britain, legally or otherwise.
  • The Primary Purpose Rule was abolished. This had required foreign applicants to show that immigration to the UK was not the primary purpose of their marriage to a British citizen.
  • The decision not to impose transitional controls on citizens of the new A8 member states of the EU led to one of the largest peacetime movements of people in Europe; the A8 population increased from 170,000 in 2004 to 805,000 in 2010. It has now reached 1.1 million.
  • Labour introduced extensive legislation on asylum but removed only one third of those refused refugee status, fatally undermining the credibility of the asylum system and encouraging failed applicants to remain illegally.

As to the underlying reasons for these largely undeclared policy changes, some in the Labour Party wanted to change the whole nature of our society by making it much more multicultural. Others were deterred from raising their fears in public lest they be thought to be racist; many feared a reaction from local activists. As a result, policy drifted until it was too late to bring the numbers under control. Gordon Brown’s description of a Labour supporter who questioned Eastern European migration as “a bigoted woman” crystallised the public’s view that Labour did not understand their concerns and had no effective policies to tackle them, a charge that they are yet to answer.

Indeed, the paper finds no sign that the present Labour leadership understands public opinion about the scale of immigration. Nor is there evidence that they have any serious intention of controlling it. The Shadow Home Secretary has already indicated that Labour will have no net migration target if they win the next election.

Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK said:

“This is a fascinating but very sad story of how a small but determined group appear to have manipulated immigration policy while deterring any opponents with false allegations of racism. There is nothing to suggest that Labour now have the political will to get the scale of immigration down to a sensible level, rather the reverse. Whatever the Labour leadership may be saying now, the pressures from pro-immigration groups in and around any future Labour government would very likely lead to the gates being thrown open once more.”

Read the full briefing paper here

Notes to Editors:
1. The Conservatives had abolished exit checks to EU destinations in 1994 as an economy measure.
2. A further aspect of the Labour government’s record on asylum is their grant of Indefinite Leave to Remain outside the immigration rules to over 220,000 people in three separate ‘backlog clearance exercises’ , many of whom were failed asylum seekers.
3. Until 2005, Migration Watch was virtually alone in pointing to the consequences of Labour’s immigration policies.

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