At the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference this weekend Nick Clegg wins the vote on the new immigration policy “Making Migration Work for Britain”. The new policy aims to ensure that immigration contributes to economic prosperity of the UK and that unfair and arbitrary restrictions on immigration are substituted with the rules based on economic objectives, fairness and compassion.
The policy document acknowledges that international students contribute enormously to the economic wellbeing of the UK and help funding British students and British Higher Education. The reduction in the numbers of international students makes no economic or social sense and is actually detrimental to the UK. Instead of deterring bona fide students, steps should be taken to encourage them to come to the UK for studies.
With reference to economic migration, the document sets the goal of bolstering economic growth whilst reassuring British nationals that the system is fair. The proposal includes measures to strengthen enforcement of national minimum wages and additional checks to ensure that employers comply with legislative provisions related to employment of migrants.
EU is no longer seen as the scapegoat for all wrongs. The document recognises that some three million UK jobs are linked to the EU and the single market. British citizens individually benefit from free movement and at least 1.4 million UK citizens live elsewhere in the EU. There are proposals on restricting access to benefits for migrants seeking employment and on introduction of English language test for those who claim Jobseeker’s Allowance in the UK.
There are proposals to review the rules related to family members of British citizens and reconsider the draconian complexities of the current legislation and the minimum income threshold of £18,600.
Importantly, there is a proposal to make the Home Office accountable for the quality of individual decisions. At present there is little or no incentive for the Home Office to drive up the quality of decision making, as the appeals are funded by the Ministry of Justice. The proposal includes professional accreditation for immigration officers, similar to that required for immigration solicitors and OISC regulated advisors.
The policy aims to end, or at least to limit, the shameful practice of detaining migrants in immigration detention centres. Interesting figures show that in 2009-10 the Home Office paid out £12 million in compensation and legal costs arising from unlawful detention, while independent research concluded that £75 million per year could be saved if asylum seekers who cannot be deported were leased in a timely manner. A recent article in politics.co.uk about secret attempts of the Home Office to return asylum-seekers to the war-torn Somalia shows how acutely topical this proposal is, both in the context of Britain’s relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights and economic goals of reducing wasted time, resources, and burden on the taxpayer.