Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Britain's Borders 'made less secure by Labour' say frontline staff

Britain's border guards have delivered a damning verdict on Labour's supposedly 'tough' immigration system. In an official survey, nearly three quarters of staff working on the front line said the changes made the border less secure.

But migrants asked their views on the system - attacked for allowing arrivals to spiral out of control - were overwhelmingly in favour. More than 80 per cent of visa applicants said the system was fair, easy to understand and 'user-friendly'. Businesses and universities bringing migrants in to work or study in Britain were similarly in favour.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the MigrationWatch UK think tank said: 'We have long had concerns about the effectiveness of the points based system in controlling the scale of immigration to Britain.' 'The fact that immigrants themselves are very happy with it, and immigration officers are not serves to underline the view that the system needs fundamental reassessment.'

The Australian-style points system, introduced by Gordon Brown, was intended to cut arrivals from outside the EU, with numbers of economic migrants expected to fall by as much as 12 per cent. But it was branded 'shambolic' after analysis showed that economic migration actually increased by 20 per cent, while the number of foreign students went up by more than 30 per cent.

Less than a year after it was brought in, ministers were forced to suspend applications from several countries, including Bangladesh and Nepal, because of fears student routes were being abused by economic migrants.

In just twelve months the number of visas issued in Bangladesh increased by 645 per cent. At the time, some border staff watching arrivals at UK ports and airports reported migrants arriving who could barely speak English, despite having met supposedly strict admission criteria.

The Home Office survey of nearly 2000 immigration staff was carried between April and May last year.

Around half of all UK Border Agency staff - including backroom workers tasked with processing applications - said the country's borders appeared less secure since the system was brought in. But that view was held by 71 per cent of Border Force staff who work on the front line.

The survey also suggested the system was rushed in, with just 14 per cent of Border Force staff saying they were properly prepared for its introduction.

The highest approval rates - approaching 90 per cent - were seen in Tier One of the points system, which issued visas to 'highly skilled' workers allowed to come to Britain even if they didn't have a secure job offer.

Figures emerged recently showing just one in four of those coming in through Tier One was able to secure a 'highly skilled' occupation. Nearly one in three were either unemployed or working as supermarket cashiers, security guards or call centre staff.

Of 6,796 migrants, 82 per cent of those in Tier One said they were satisfied with the system, 81 per cent of skilled migrants coming in through Tier 2, and 79 per cent of young and temporary workers admitted under Tier 5.

Businesses and universities bringing in migrants to work and study gave the scheme an 86 per cent approval rate.

Ministers have pledged to cut net migration - the difference between the numbers arriving and those leaving - from more than 200,000 last year to less than 100,000 by 2015.

In an unprecedented crackdown the number of economic migrants arriving from outside the EU will be permanently capped from later this year, and both student visa numbers and totals coming here to marry will be slashed.


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