Monday, 23 March 2009

It is becoming uncomfortable to be a migrant

Today's post is the first contribution from one of our guest bloggers: Keith Best is the Chief Executive of the Immigration Advisory Service. They provide legal aid and have won major campaigns on behalf of migrants and asylum seekers, such as the campaign to outlaw removals of Zimbabweans from the UK, back in July 2008. Today he speaks of the additional measures placed on migrants who wish to come to the UK.

We learn that migrants and students from outside the EU are now to be charged an extra £50 for UK visas to support communities struggling to cope with migration. The £70m raised by the scheme, announced by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, will go towards providing more teachers, police and translators it is claimed. Yet this is a drop in the ocean with the £250m the local authorities state that they need to cope with increased numbers of children who do not have English as a first language. So, it is window dressing trying for the quick headline. It is also unfair – the levy will be paid by those from outside the EEA (many of whom, especially those from Commonwealth countries, have good use of English) yet most strains appear to come from the eastern Europeans who, of course, exercising their Treaty rights to come to the UK, do not need visas and so will not pay. More worryingly is the way this will focus “blame” on migrants and further damage social cohesion.

Then there is the recent headline “Most people in major European countries and the United States believe unemployed immigrants should be asked to leave” following the FT/Harris polls published by the Financial Times showing support from more than three-quarters of Britons. Interestingly, if the question had been asked about migrants already in work, even illegally, it could have been very different as previous opinion polls have shown.

The worry is that all this could elevate immigration as a political issue and boost support for far-right parties in the elections this year and next. It is a dangerous game for politicians to play.

Meanwhile, in the House of Lords the Border, Citizenship & Immigration Bill proceeds to its Report Stage. Part of that will establish border controls within the Common Travel Area (Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland) on air and sea routes (not on the common land border). Another part of the Bill will enable restrictions to be placed on students to remain at the same institution unless permission is given by the UK Border Agency for them to switch. This is on top of the provisions in the UK Border Act 2007 which, for the first time, enabled residence, reporting and other restrictions to be placed on those who have been given leave to remain in the UK (not, as previously, only on those who were granted temporary admission).

It is becoming very uncomfortable to be a migrant.

Keith Best

Chief Executive IAS


  1. It was also in the news that when asked in the Home Office Questions and Answers,Phil Woolas said an amnesty is not accepted because "it is not fair on those migrated legally". What he did not take notice of, was that those who came here legally did not spend many years in limbo and did not lived in a shadow of fear all the time and did not become destitute and did not have to sleep rough. Most of undocumented immigrants are very much law abiding people who for whatever reasons had to cross the border the way they did. If given status, it will be fair because they've gone through a lot of things and have paid for what they've done so legalally migrated people should not feel any sense of un-fairness. By the way most of the talk is about a "path to Citizenship" and that potential path will definitely contribute to the fairness of the issue too.

  2. Again, taking a leaf from the basic laws of thermodynamics which governs the design and operation of engineering machines, the underlying principles rely on the concept of an ideal and real situation (with reference to the demand for highly ‘skilled’ lecturers within the established shortage in the FE Sector and I with the ‘vital ability’ to fill the required short-falls, but unable to provide accordingly and been raped of my human rights {ECHR 8}),20 years in the UK.