Thursday, November 4, 2010

British government vows to curb every migrant route

Immigrants face an unprecedented crackdown on every route into the UK amid a warning from MPs that the Coalition’s cap on foreign workers will make ‘little difference’.

A report claims the plan for an annual limit on non-EU work permits could reduce overall immigration levels by just one per cent. Only 20 per cent of the 500,000 migrants who come here each year will even be covered by the cap, let alone be barred, the Commons home affairs select committee says. It also claimed the cap would be damaging to British business and concluded the only way to slash net migration is to also cut the number of foreign students.

Ministers responded by saying it had always been their intention to impose restrictions on every different route migrants use to enter the UK. This will lead to huge reductions in the 300,000-plus foreign students given visas every year, and tighter controls on people coming here to marry.

Overall, the Coalition wants to at least halve net migration – the difference between the number of immigrants and those leaving – by the end of this Parliament. Currently, net migration stands at 200,000 – with the Tories planning to slash this to the ‘tens of thousands’.

Home Office minister Damian Green said: ‘We have been saying for months now we need to act on every immigration route to make the numbers sustainable.’

The select committee’s report focuses solely on the Government’s plan for an annual limit on non-EU economic migrants. An interim cap is in place, with the final number to be allowed in being fixed by April.

The interim limit was only five per cent lower than last year’s total. The MPs said that, even if visas were refused to all non-EU nationals seeking work permits, the total number of immigrants entering the UK would be reduced by ‘considerably less than 20 per cent’. They add that if the cap were implemented at the interim five per cent, the reduction would be ‘less than one per cent’.

The MPs also claim the cap will ‘damage the UK’s ability to recruit the most distinguished scientists into universities and highly talented individuals into UK companies and public services’.

In a fresh blow David Cameron’s former speechwriter Ian Birrell said the proposed cap was a political ‘gesture’. A friend of the Prime Minister, he said in an article for the London Evening Standard the Tories had come up with an ‘arbitrary cap to make it appear they had a policy on immigration’.

Mr Birrell, who has a severely disabled child, bonded with Mr Cameron over the problems suffered by his late son Ivan. In his article he warned that the care for such children could suffer. He said: ‘We should not forget the less glamorous sectors of care homes and hospitals. As the parent of a profoundly disabled child, the importance of overseas care staff cannot be overstated. ‘They are the key to survival, since few Britons are interested in the long hours and tough work of caring for chronically sick people. Already agencies are reporting problems in filling posts.’

Labour immigration spokesman Phil Woolas said the MPs’ report confirmed ‘the cap was a pre-election gimmick to con voters’.

But Government sources said a series of crackdowns would be announced in coming months. The biggest losers will be non-EU students. In the year to June this year, 362,015 foreign students were allowed to come and study in the UK, up 35 per cent on the previous year.

It could be made harder for them to do non-degree courses –90,000 are in the private sector at smaller colleges, which offer GCSEs or vocational training.


Locating housing for "asylum seekers" in a pretty Australian country town unwise

HOUSING asylum seekers in the idyllic South Australian town of Inverbrackie will send the wrong message to people smugglers, Tony Abbott has said.

Mr Abbott was in the Adelaide Hills on Wednesday where residents were angry at the federal government's decision to use empty defence force housing for asylum seeker families. "Just as I look at this facility, it's hard to see that bringing asylum-seeker families to a beautiful, idyllic area like this is going to send anything other than the dead wrong message to people smugglers and their customers," Mr Abbott said. "If anything it is going to add the pull factor."

Mr Abbott also met community representatives, attending a forum at Woodside organised by the Woodside Community Action Group.

His trip followed a visit from Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Monday who has been criticised for failing to consult with South Australians before announcing 400 asylum seekers would be housed at Inverbrackie.

The Woodside action group said it represented 500 people who had a genuine entitlement to consultation on matters that directly affected their community. The group said it was concerned about the logistics of transporting 400 people in and out of the town on days of extreme fire danger during summer and was also concerned about the impact asylum seekers would have on the local health and education services.

Mr Bowen announced on Monday he had set up a community reference group to consult on the detention centre and appointed a liaison officer.


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