Sunday, June 26, 2011

David Cameron has claimed victory in blocking an attempt by Brussels to soften current asylum laws

The Prime Minister joined forces with Germany to force EU leaders to maintain the existing immigration rules, which allow countries to send failed asylum seekers back to the first European country in which they arrived.

The law change would have allowed illegal immigrants to make their way across Europe to Britain before claiming asylum.

Mr Cameron’s priority at the EU summit on Friday was to ensure Britain was not drawn into the second bail-out of Greece, but the Prime Minister was also concerned about changes to Europe’s border policy.

The Mediterranean countries of Greece, Italy and Malta, in particular, are battling to deal with a flood of immigrants. The “Arab Spring” crisis in north Africa and Libya has exacerbated the problem.

José Manuel Barroso, the European commission president, had hoped to amend the “Dublin regulation” which would prevent asylum seekers being sent back to certain named countries.

However, Mr Cameron blocked the plans to alter the immigration system. “I was worried before this European Council about potential proposals to suspend the Dublin arrangements that allow us to return asylum seekers to the countries from which they have come,” said Mr Cameron at the summit. “I’m glad to report that Britain and Germany together made sure that those proposals aren’t even referred to in any way in the Council conclusions.”

Mr Cameron’s stand followed a ruling from the European court of human rights which said that it was wrong to send failed asylum seekers back to Greece because of the state of its reception centres.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has described the situation in Greece for migrants and asylum seekers as a “humanitarian crisis.” Greece approved only 11 out of the first 30,000 asylum applications received in 2010. The asylum backlog currently stands at around 47,000 cases.

More than one million people have fled Libya since the conflict began. Frontex, the EU border agency, estimates that 48,000 have already arrived in the EU.

Up to 50,000 immigrants are expected to arrive in Italy in the coming months, with up to 1,500 people dying at sea while trying to make the precarious journey to Europe.

“Britain is not in the Schengen area, we are not going to be joining the Schengen area,” said Mr Cameron. “We have by and large proper and sustainable borders and I want us to have proper and sustainable border controls.”

Under the Schengen Agreement, citizens in 25 mainland European Union (EU) nations are allowed to travel across borders without having their passports checked.

Tensions have risen over the fleeing migrants after Italy handed more than 25,000 Tunisians temporary permits to travel, effectively giving them unobstructed travel around the 25 EU nations. The UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen agreement.


British PM has finally woken up to the disaster that is immigration. But he's left it too late

There are moments in the life of a government when the penny finally drops. When ministers realise a policy in an important area isn’t working and isn’t likely to either.

That moment has come for the Conservatives in relation to a subject their leader was much too keen to avoid in opposition: mass immigration and its deeply worrying implications.

David Cameron always feared his party being labelled ‘nasty’ if he mentioned immigration too much in the party’s botched general election campaign last year. Indeed, he avoided it until the last of the three televised leaders’ debates. Only then did he speak with clarity and conviction about it, but by that point it was far too late to persuade voters that he was seriously prepared to tackle the problem of our open borders.

But once in Downing Street, Cameron was confronted by research from his personal pollster, Andrew Cooper, which confirmed the true extent of public concern about high levels of immigration.

Ironically, Cooper was one of the very modernisers in the Tory Party who did not want Cameron to be tainted — as he saw it — by being seen as tough on immigration in the run-up to the election.

But now he has changed his tune — and taken the Prime Minister along with him. In fact, Cooper has recently become messianic on the subject, telling colleagues in recent weeks that the Government’s failure to reduce the numbers of immigrants flocking to Britain will badly damage Cameron’s reputation.

And as the problem worsens, the electorate will only get more angry, jeopardising the Prime Minister’s dreams of a second term.

It speaks volumes that voters’ concerns about immigration should come as a revelation to some in No.10, when for years it has been obvious to millions outside the Westminster village that Britain’s loss of control of its borders has been a disaster of historic proportions.

Labour’s criminally reckless open-door policy has meant more than 5.2 million immigrants arriving on our shores since 1997. When the departures of those moving abroad are taken into account, it has left the foreign-born population in the UK an incredible 3.2 million higher.

Future historians will be astonished that a once-great country subjected itself to such a sudden and socially unsustainable rise in population.

And what is worrying Downing Street is whether they can do anything about it. Under pressure from Tory MPs to say something about immigration in the run-up to the election, Cameron committed himself to reducing net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’.

But it is becoming horrifyingly clear that Cameron will not manage to get immigration below even 100,000 a year at the present rate of progress.

The Migration Observatory at Oxford University calculated this week that around 165,000 immigrants will still be arriving every year come 2015. The latest figures for the year to last September showed immigration actually going up, with 242,000 net arrivals.

Of course, a sensible amount of immigration would aid the dynamism of the economy, with talented people from abroad opting to come and work here. But that is not what has happened.

At the current astonishing rates of growth, the independent Office for National Statistics now estimates that the British population will rise from 61.8 million today to more than 70 million in 2026 — three years earlier than it has hitherto forecast. And a staggering 68 per cent of the rise will be attributable to immigration.

To put that in perspective, it is the equivalent of adding eight cities the size of Birmingham to the UK in just 15 years. Our leaders have no idea where all these new citizens are going to be housed nor how the already failing school system and struggling NHS are going to cope with them. Already, as we heard this week, a million children in British schools have English as their second language.

Inside Government, this is all causing something approaching panic. One worried minister described immigration to me as ‘the iceberg’ that could eventually sink the Government. There is also mounting concern that the welfare reforms simply won’t work if immigration continues at its current pace.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is implementing a programme to get some of the five million on benefits fit for work, but he is worried that migration could render it largely ineffective.

Unsurprisingly, many businesses prefer to employ ambitious, hardworking incomers rather than long-term unemployed Britons. This has meant that nine out of ten new jobs go to migrants.

If the flow of fresh arrivals continues, the fear is that bosses will continue to choose them rather than help get Britons off benefits.

What an appalling mess. A PM who could have won a majority had he focused more in the election campaign on immigration and other traditional Tory topics such as crime, controls on the welfare state and education reform now belatedly accepts the full seriousness of the situation.

His problem is that he is in coalition with the pro-immigration Lib Dems, who are hampering attempts to bring the situation back under control. The Tory Home Office minister Damian Green is trying to get the numbers down with a cap on work permits for those coming in from abroad. But the Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable has insisted that controls should not apply to vast swathes of workers — which makes it difficult to hit the target for reductions. The PM’s hands are tied in other ways too. First, there is Europe. Free movement within the EU means its citizens have a right to come here.

Even if there were to be a flood of Greek or Portuguese fleeing the meltdown of their Eurozone economies, there is nothing we could do to stop them.

Then there is the Human Rights Act. The Daily Mail reported last week that there are 3,200 criminals, failed asylum seekers and benefit tourists who cannot be kicked out because of their right to a family life. A Bolivian even said he couldn’t be forced to leave because he has a British cat. A Sri Lankan thief won the right to stay because he has a girlfriend here.

Even if the PM tried to repeal the Human Rights Act, he couldn’t. The Lib Dems wouldn’t allow it.

Cameron could try to crack down hard on the biggest source of immigration, the 75 per cent or so who come here from outside the EU. He could opt for much tougher measures on work permits, sham marriages, bogus students and by heavily fining companies who employ any of the one million illegal immigrants. But again, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems wouldn’t have it.

Perhaps one day a British leader will be prepared to opt out of the EU’s free movement directives and to properly police our borders. But don’t hold your breath for David Cameron to do it. Tragically, it simply isn’t going to happen under this pantomime horse of a Coalition Government.


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