Tuesday, October 11, 2011

British PM launches immigration crackdown

David Cameron’s election pledge to reduce net immigration from the 150,000 it averaged under Labour to “tens of thousands” a year is proving a tough nut to crack. In his second big speech on immigration this year, the Prime Minister yesterday focused on two areas. He proposed new minimum income requirements for immigrants who “sponsor” wives and dependants to follow them to this country. A system of bonds is also being considered, requiring a surety to be paid by immigrants that will be forfeited if they choose not to return home.

The last government actually introduced such a scheme four years ago but quietly shelved it under pressure from immigrant communities. The Coalition needs to show greater resolve. It is not unreasonable to expect people who come here to lodge such a payment that can offset any demands they may make on the public purse. The Prime Minister also took the first steps towards making forced marriage – which he described as “little more than slavery” – a criminal offence. It is extraordinary that this is not the case already.

Mr Cameron is in the right territory. Among non-EU nationals, it is students, family members and dependants who now comprise two thirds of all immigrants. This is one aspect of immigration that needs to be discussed but rarely is. When it comes to immigration from the Indian subcontinent, and particularly Pakistan, politicians constantly give the impression that they are walking on eggshells. Their unwillingness to engage in debate allows the far Right to fill the vacuum.

The issue that specifically needs to be addressed is the last government’s reckless decision – motivated by cynical political considerations – to allow marriage to be used as a means of settling in this country. Before 1997, the Primary Purpose Rule required an applicant to show “that the marriage was not entered into primarily to obtain admission to the United Kingdom”. Now, it is possible to marry someone settled in Britain purely for the purpose of immigration, provided certain legal requirements are met. As a consequence of the rule change, immigration by spouses has doubled and problems of illiteracy and cultural isolation have grown. Restoring the Primary Purpose Rule would go a long way towards reducing forced marriages.

As for the Prime Minister’s suggestion that the public should report suspected illegal immigrants, that sounds like a dangerous piece of populism that could have unfortunate consequences. Mr Cameron would do better to focus the Government’s energies on stopping those who have no right to settle in this country from coming here in the first place.


Australian PM jawbones employers about hiring Australians first

Just political grandstanding. Only legislation would have any appreciable effect

The Prime Minister of Australia has urged employers to prioritise local workers over skilled migrants in filling jobs.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told the media that vacant employment positions - particualrly in the lucrative mining and resources sector - should be filled by Australian workers rather than imported skilled labour, ahead of the national jobs forum in Canberra commencing Friday 7 October.

Ms Gillard said that unemployed Australians could be trained to fill demand in the mines. She specifically raised the possibility of re-training retrenched steelworks workers in Western Australia, and providing new opportunities to regional and rural communities through skills training.

"We don't want to leave a kid in Kwinana in Western Australia on the unemployment queue without skills while the people who operate big mines in the north-west of the state say can you import a plumber or a cook or an electrician for me," Gillard told Radio National. "I want that kid to get that opportunity."

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has supported the Prime Minister's comments, claiming that the use of skilled migrants indicates a lack of local skills training on the part of industry.

"The reason we are in this mess at the moment is that the mining industry has not invested in skills," said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

"They are not training apprentices, they are not training their workers. For years they have neglected this important part of their responsibility as an employer."

The Government amended the Australian immigration intake in 2009, reducing the number of skilled migrants to 115,000.

However, despite the imposed limit and recent comments, the Government also indicated in the Federal Budget handed down in May that the skilled migrant intake would be increased in 2012. 16,000 additional Australia visa grants will be allocated to skilled foreigners next year.


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