Saturday, December 18, 2010

U.K. Immigration Cap Ruled Unlawful

The U.K.'s High Court Friday ruled that the coalition government's temporary cap on non-European Union immigrants was unlawful. Judges ruled that ministers had "sidestepped" the law by imposing the cap without sufficient parliamentary scrutiny.

The temporary cap was introduced in June as a stop-gap measure ahead of a broader overview of immigration rules next April. The coalition government had promised to introduce a permanent cap on non-EU immigrants after consulting on the issue. Under the cap, which came into effect in June, a maximum of 24,100 non-EU workers could migrate to the U.K. a month.

The cap has faced criticism from the business community and within the government, with the junior coalition Liberal Democrat party saying it could prevent U.K. companies recruiting the skilled workers they need.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said the government was "disappointed" with the verdict and would study it to say if there were grounds to appeal. "We remain firmly committed to reducing net migration and will be introducing a permanent limit on non-European workers next April," Mr. Green said.

The minister added that the government will do "all in our power to continue to prevent a rush of applications before our more permanent measures are in place."

The opposition Labour party said the government's immigration policy is "in a state of chaos." "Their so-called cap may have sounded good before the election but it wasn't properly thought through and didn't get the scrutiny it deserved. Not only will it do little to control immigration it also risks damaging British businesses," said Ed Balls, Labour's home affairs spokesman.


Christmas Island tragedy forces review of Labor party's asylum stance

LABOR Party national president Anna Bligh has backed a complete review of the government's border protection policies

The call comes as political unity over the Christmas Island asylum boat disaster crumbled. As the frantic search continued for survivors of Wednesday's horror sinking, the opposition said it would not join a proposed bipartisan group announced by Julia Gillard yesterday.

The rebuff came as The Australian learned that Indonesian authorities were searching for an Iranian in the belief he had planned the doomed people-smuggling operation.

It can also be revealed that the two patrol boats that participated in yesterday's rescue, plucking 41 survivors from the sea, were stationed off Christmas Island only because the seas were too rough to resume regular patrols.

The official death toll last night rose to 30, including four children and four babies, after divers recovered the bodies of man in his 20s and a boy about 10 years old, near the sunken hull.

However, the government, which yesterday announced three investigations into the tragedy, said the toll was likely to rise because up to 100 Iraqis, Iranians and Kurds were believed to have been aboard the boat.

Locals said bodies could be trapped for weeks in underwater caves at the site of the boat wreck, 200m from the island's only safe harbour, Flying Fish Cove.

Ms Bligh, the Queensland Premier, speaking in her federal leadership capacity with the ALP, yesterday agreed the "catastrophic tragedy" would raise questions about whether Christmas Island should continue to host the nation's biggest immigration detention camp.

She said the Prime Minister's decision to return to work from holidays demonstrated that she understood the implications for "policy settings in relation particularly to this island".

Asked whether the Indian Ocean territory had become a magnet for people-smuggling, Ms Bligh told The Australian: "I really do think it is premature to be jumping to specific conclusions. All I am saying is that . . . when a shocking incident like this happens, it's incumbent on all of us to have a really good look at all the settings, and we should have the courage to do so.

"This is an absolutely catastrophic tragedy and when we understand better the circumstances that led to it . . . I would expect that we as a nation would have a long, hard look at what it all means."

Inevitably, this would lead to "some questioning" about the viability of the detention facilities on Christmas Island, which was excised from the Australian migration zone by the Howard government. "I think as a nation we are all struggling with how we should protect our borders from illegal entry, how we should ensure we process people who are seeking asylum in a humane way and whether the detention centres are on Australian soil or places like Christmas Island," Ms Bligh said.

The three Indonesian crew members survived the disaster and last night were being held in the island's construction camp, away from the asylum-seeker survivors.

The Prime Minister warned the toll would almost certainly rise. "

Another asylum-seeker vessel arrived in Australian waters yesterday. The boat, with 54 passengers and two crew, was intercepted northwest of Ashmore Island by the patrol boat HMAS Glenelg yesterday afternoon. Those aboard were on their way to Christmas Island last night for security, identity and health checks.

Fending off questions about the role Labor's softened refugee policies might have played in drawing boats here, Ms Gillard called for any policy debate to be "informed by facts". "What we know from past instances in this area is there have been times when there has been a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of debate about the facts," she said.

She said West Australian authorities would conduct a coronial inquest into the incident. There would be a criminal investigation under people-smuggling laws and a review of the incident by Customs and Border Protection.

Mr Abbott said he was loathe to start a "political bunfight" over the issue, particularly while the rescue effort remained under way. "But given the Prime Minister's claim, I think I can make the observation that what Australia needs is a new policy to deal with this problem, not a new committee to investigate," he said.


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