Call him what you will (some people call him plain crazy), but on student immigration London’s cricket bat wielding/football kicking mayor Boris Johnson has got things dead right: “Against illegals, yes. Against talent, no. In football as in the economy at large, you don’t make people more competitive by excluding the competition … on this particular issue of the student visas I’m making a case that the Government doesn’t seem to agree with. I think I’m going to win the argument.” In denouncing his own party’s utterly useless immigration policies which target students (down 26 per cent, see below) and family members, Boris has won many friends in South Asia: a big and buzzing place with indelible ties to the UK. And on any view, punishing foreign students to appease xenophobia is clearly undermining the UK’s economic recovery. In South Asia itself, most notably in the Punjab, such stupidity is called Apnay Paer Pay Kulhari Maarna (to axe one’s own feet).
Everyone knows that after studying in the UK, most students return home: only 20 per cent, the “the brightest and best” stay on. But does that make them parasites?
Perhaps, it would be better if the Home Secretary could focus her efforts and get rid people who really are crazy. But of course, since deporting them is very hard indeed, such characters get to stay on in the UK as they have rights under the fabled human rights law. “Its got teeth the ECHR,” a partner in a huge law firm proudly said to me a few weeks ago. “Nothing wrong with that”, he added. Due process must be followed if the rule of law is to be preserved went his argument. And quite right he was as well.
Anyway, the hard new immigration rules do not work.
They punish the innocent and the “guilty” (those people who are able to flout this country’s immigration law because the people in charge of enforcement are just too busy with gossip, tea, coffee and biscuits etc.) keep slipping through the authorities’ fingers.
Like the Albanian “Sokol” – I doubt that was his real name though – who recently drove me to the airport exclaimed, “I came here ten years ago from Albania via Turin in a lorry and claimed asylum. I didn’t go to sign in Old Street and just stayed here for many years. Then a tribunal translator friend took £100 from me to fill out a form under the legacy and I got ILR!”.
“That’s great”, I responded. Sokol also informed me that some of his other friends who were detained and deported because they did go to sign in Old Street (UKBA signing centre) just came back in a lorry and now live illegally in the UK.
It is getting clearer by the day that the new/hard rules are not working. Instead, they are making everything Kaput.
Hence, criticising Theresa May’s methods as a “blunderbuss approach that has hit and caused a lot of uncertainty and confusion in vital markets like India” is quite appropriate. Although it is possible to criticise Boris Johnson for backtracking on his earlier stance for an amnesty for all illegal immigrants in the capital, there is truth in his argument that:
If you look at what the Home Office is really doing, if you look at what is really happening to people who have been chronic, chronic over-stayers in the British system they are effectively now given an amnesty as it is.
The difference is that I call it an amnesty and the Government doesn’t really admit it is happening.
Anyway, leaving the politicians to one side, in setting out the key figures the Office of National Statistics (ONS) summarised its latest findings on migration as:
- Latest provisional data show that there was a net flow of 183,000 migrants to the UK in the year ending March 2012, which is significantly lower than the net flow of 242,000 in the year ending March 2011.
- 536,000 people immigrated to the UK in the year ending March 2012, which is significantly lower than the 578,000 who migrated the previous year. It is the lowest immigration estimate since the year to June 2004 when 528,000 people migrated to the UK.
- Provisional data show that 353,000 emigrants left the UK in the year ending March 2012. This is higher than the 336,000 who emigrated in the year to March 2011. The increase in emigration is mostly due to more people leaving for a definite job. 127,000 left the UK for a definite job in the year ending March 2012, compared to 108,000 the previous year.
- There were significant decreases in the net flow of non-EU and British citizens in the year ending March 2012 from the previous year. There were net flows of 185,000 non-EU citizens and -77,000 British citizens, which are lower than the estimates of 215,000 and -50,000 the previous year.
- There was a significant decrease in the numbers of people arriving to study. 213,000 migrants arrived to study in the year to March 2012; lower than 232,000 the previous year. Decreases have also been seen in the number arriving for work-related reasons at 177,000 in the year to March 2012 compared to 194,000 the previous year.
- Excluding visitor and transit visas, the total number of visas issued fell 14 per cent to 508,488 in the year ending September 2012 (compared with 593,978 in the previous 12 months), to the lowest 12-monthly total recorded using comparable data available from 2005.
- In the year to September 2012, there were 210,921 visas issued for the purpose of study (excluding student visitors), a fall of 26 per cent compared with the previous 12 months. 145,604 work-related visas were issued in the year to September 2012, a fall of 4 per cent compared with the previous 12 months.
- Final figures for 2011 show that annual net migration to the UK was 215,000. The decrease in inflow and the increase in outflow have resulted in lower net migration compared to 2010 when it was 252,000.
Very interestingly, the ONS also has an excellent graphic on Long Term Migration into and outside the United Kingdom, 1964 – 2012 which is available here.
Equally absorbing information about historic injustice documented in the Cabinet Papers can be viewed here.
The full ONS Migration Statistics Quarterly Report November 2011 is available below.