Sunday, March 25, 2012

Britain plans major immigration crackdown

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is planning a major immigration crackdown on tens of thousands of people who "abuse" family visas to settle in Britain, according to a leaked cabinet letter.

The letter from Mrs May to Nick Clegg, which has been seen by The Sunday Telegraph, proposes a tough new minimum income of £25,700 a year for anyone seeking to bring a spouse, partner or dependant to the UK from outside the European Union from June - almost double the current threshold of £13,700.

The minimum income would rise dramatically - up to £62,600 - if children are also brought in.

Mrs May also wants a longer probationary period of five years before spouses and partners can apply to live permanently in Britain, and a higher level of English to be required.

The proposals could cut the number of immigrants allowed in by 15,000 a year - a significant step towards the Government's aim of reducing "net" migration to 100,000 people each year.

However, they are expected to fought hard by Mr Clegg and other Liberal Democrat ministers, escalating still further the tensions between the two Coalition partners that have risen dramatically since last week's controversial Budget.

The leaked letter suggests that Mrs May is determined to take a tough stance on immigration. In the 12 months until June 2011 the "net" figure for arrivals in Britain was 250,000 - making it virtually impossible for David Cameron to hit his target of bringing the figure down below 100,000 by 2015. The figure was just 5,000 short of the previous record.

The Home Secretary tells Mr Clegg that outline plans for a reduction in numbers who come to Britain through the "family route" won "broad public support" in the coalition's consultation last year.

In 2010, some 48,900 visas were issued under this category. The majority of those who come to settle in Britain using this method are women from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Mrs May adds: "The package which I propose to implement from June 2012 will reduce the burdens on the taxpayer, promote integration and tackle abuse."

The Home Secretary also refers in the latter, dated 14 March, to a need to "differentiate between genuine and non-genuine relationships" - a clear sign that ministers believe many of the marriages entered into under the current system are sham.

She tells Mr Clegg: "In particular I propose a minimum income threshold of £25,700 for a British citizen or person settled in the UK to sponsor the settlement of a spouse or partner of non-EEA [European Economic Area] nationality."

For a partner with one child, the income threshold would rise to £37,000 a year, for two to £49,300 and for three children it would hit £62,600 according to the letter.

The "probationary period" before which spouses cannot apply to live permanently in Britain would lengthen from two to five years under the proposals while the "level of English required to achieve settlement" would be raised.

Grandparents and other "non-EEA adult dependants" would only be allowed in under the "most exceptional circumstances" - as current rules already require.

Mr Clegg, who received the letter as chairman of the Cabinet's home affairs sub committee, is likely to push for a much lower minimum income threshold.

Liberal Democrats take a much "softer" line on immigration - and a key plank of their manifesto at the 2010 general election was an amnesty for all illegal immigrants already in Britain.

Relations between the coalition parties hit a new low in the wake of the Budget, whose preparations saw the Lib Dems publicly call for a number of their key policies, in defiance of the usual secrecy surrounding negotiations.

Tory ministers blame their Lib Dem counterparts for a series of leaks of major proposals - with the ill-feeling rising in major departments across Whitehall.

The migration cap was part of the Conservative manifesto and is in the Coalition agreement, which sets out what the current Government will do before a 2015 General Election.

However ministers are powerless to cut migration from European Union member states because of rules on freedom of movement, meaning that they must make large cuts in the number of people arriving from outside the EU.

Last year's consultation pointed the way towards the planned shake-up of the "family route" to settling in Britain.

There is concern not just over the numbers, but the impact "family route" migration has on social cohesion, and in particular on the education system.

Last week figures released by the Department for Education showed that children with English as their home language were now the minority of pupils in more than 1,600 schools across England.

One in six primary school pupils - 547,000 - does not have English as a first language, with the figure for secondary schools one in eight, or 400,000.

Punjabi is the most frequently spoken language among pupils without English as a first language, followed by Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Somali, Polish, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish and Tamil.

The proposed £25,700 minimum income threshold is at the upper end of the scale recommended by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) last year.

Ministers asked the committee to recommend an increase in the current threshold - equivalent to £13,700 a year before tax - which would prevent the entry of those who could be considered a burden on taxpayers.

The committee, which is the government's main advisory body on immigration, said the figure should be between £18,600 and £25,700.


Children who speak English as their main language at home are now in the MINORITY in 1,600 schools across Britain

The number of children who count English as their mother tongue are now in the minority at more than 1,600 schools across England.

The new figures show that close to one million children who now attend schools in England do not have English as their first language at home - with the multicultural effects of migration now showing in the nation's classrooms.

And the amount of schools with a majority of pupils who do not class English at their home language is steadily increasing by one a week.

There are 97 schools where children with English as their first language are in such a minority that they make up less than one in twenty pupils.

The statistics released by the Department of Education shows that in 1997, when Tony Blair first came to power, there were 866 schools in England where more than 50 per cent of the pupils had English as a second language. Last year that figure had nearly doubled in just 14 years to 1,638 schools.

Now there are 1,363 primary schools, 224 secondary schools and 51 special schools where more than half the pupils come from a non-English speaking background. One in six youngsters in primary schools - 547,000 - do not have English as their first language.

In secondary schools the figure stands at 400,000 - just over one in eight.

A recent study found that Punjabi was the most frequently spoken language among pupils who did not have English as a first language. After that the most popular languages were Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Somali, Polish, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish and Tamil.

But schools also have to cope with sizable populations of pupils who speak Shqip from Albania and Kosovo, Igbo from parts of Nigeria, Luganda from Uganda, Sinhala from Sri Lanka and Amharic from Ethiopia.

In the 14 boroughs that comprise Inner London, there are 98,000 schoolchildren whose first language is not English, compared with just 79,000 who speak English at home.

Anastasia De Waal, head of Family and Education at the think tank Civitas, said: 'It is vital that schools are organised in such a way to adequately accommodate pupils who start school in the UK with weak English language foundations. 'In our often highly standardised classroom situations schools are frequently asked to side-step language barriers. 'This significantly and needlessly hampers the progress of those children without secure English, as well as the progress of their peers.'

The local authority areas with the smallest proportion of pupils who have English as a second language are Halton with 0.9 per cent and Redcar and Cleveland also with 0.9 per cent. They were closely followed by Derbyshire with 1.3 per cent, Rutland 1.5 with per cent, St Helens with 1.5 per cent, and Cornwall with 1.6 per cent.


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