The Immigration Minister Mr Damian Green has made a rather long-winded speech on the government’s plans to reform the immigration rules in order to achieve a “sustainable” immigration policy for Britain.
The full text of the minister’s speech is available here. On an initial reading the operative part of the speech seems to be Mr Green’s expressly stated desire to “break the link between temporary routes and permanent settlement”. Yet from an economic standpoint it would be far better to do something about the half-a-million illegal entrants who are present in the UK instead.
The government has systemically been engaging in misrepresenting statistical information in relation to the number of students who come to the UK and then “abuse” the system to settle here. The JCWI has completely rubbished the government’s claims. For them eight facts must be considered in relation to the student consultation. The JCWI’s blog entry on the matter is available here.
According to Mr Green:
We estimate that around 23,000 people who were granted settlement in 2009 initially came to the UK on a study visa (around 13 per cent of the settlement grants that year). The Home Office’s report ‘The Migrant Journey’ also showed that more than one-fifth of students who were granted visas in 2004 were still here in 2009.
However, the the Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR) report from last December directly contradicts Mr Green’s claims. The full report of the IPPR can be viewed here. For the IPPR the statistics in connection to the “migrant journey” were quite different because:
Home Office research published in September showed that of the 186,500 students granted visas in 2004, 80 per cent had left the UK by 2009 while only 3 per cent had gained settlement rights. This means that the impact of cuts to student numbers on total net migration will be highly unpredictable – a sharp decrease in student visas issued would reduce immigration (and thus net immigration) in the short term but would also reduce emigration in the medium term, which would push net immigration up again.
Like the JCWI, the IPPR did not consider student immigration to pose a threat to immigration control in the UK. And, in fact, both the JCWI and the IPPR have expressly stated that if anything student immigration is a massive asset to the UK’s ailing economy. The IPPR also suggested that European immigration was the real culprit when the question of draining the UK’s resources was concerned. The IPPR’s advice to the government was that:
There is also a real risk that the public will become disillusioned with the government’s promises to reduce net migration levels if numbers don’t fall. As Labour found, once a reputation for competence on migration is lost, it is very hard to regain – 2011 may see the Coalition government learn this lesson the hard way.
Mr Green’s speech has also revealed that the government has envisaged curtailing the length of the Post Study Work visa from 2 years to 1 year. Ostensibly, this might appear to be a clever solution but from a foreign student’s perspective 1 year is a very short period of time to try to get a job in the UK.
With Tier 1 (General) now closed, Mr Green has also stated that it is the government’s objective to facilitate the inclusion of post study workers into Tier 2 (General). The only question which arises out of this statement is whether such a claim can be accorded any credibility at all? (Especially given that the government has lost a judicial review on the PBS last December.)
How can Mr Green even dream of speaking about securing the futures of international graduates by allowing them access to Tier 2 (General) visas? After all that the UKBA has done since 19 July 2010 to prevaricate switching into this visa category from the Post Study Work route, Mr Green really has no right to make such claims; and he should not create any false expectations. A responsible government would accept that in a globalised world system economic requirements dictate the free movement of labour and goods from beyond the present politically correct European frontiers which Britain reluctantly accepts.