Clarke unveils immigration plan BBC News 7th Feb 2005
Mr Clarke says there must be confidence in the system
A new points system that aims to ensure migrants wanting to work in the UK have the right skills is at the heart of the government’s new immigration strategy.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke told MPs migrants were vital for the UK economy and society but it needed controls.
The plans include fines for employers using illegal workers. There are also moves to prevent asylum abuse.
The five-year plan comes as immigration looks increasingly likely play a contentious role in campaigning for the election – widely predicted for May.
Tony Blair told BBC News there was real public concern and it was in Britain’s interests to allow in only those migrants’ whose skills were really needed.
To critics who say he has taken too long to act, he said: “This requires a long, hard patient slog, not a magic bullet.”
In the Commons, Mr Clarke stressed the positive effects of immigration and warned: “It is a lack of confidence in our systems of control that can foster bigotry.”
He announced an end to the automatic right to settle for immigrants’ families.
Existing work permit schemes would be rolled into one Australian-style system where migrants qualified for a certain number of points according to their skills.
A new labour market advisory group would recommend what skills British businesses needed.
In sectors particularly open to abuse, workers would have to pay money up front as a bond which they would only get back once they returned home.
And all visa applicants would be fingerprinted as part of tighter border controls.
The changes mean only high-skilled workers will be allowed to settle in the UK – temporary labour from inside the European Union will now fill low-skill vacancies.
On asylum, Mr Clarke proposed that genuine refugees would no longer have permanent leave to remain in the UK.
Instead, they would get permission to stay in the country for five years before it was decided whether it was safe for them to return to their countries of origin.
He also promised more detention of failed asylum seekers and agreements to return them home.
Maeve Sherlock, from the Refugees’ Council, said refugees the plans risked leaving refugees “in limbo” for five years.
Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis welcomed a points system but accused the a “panic-stricken” government of promising only half measures.
Clear limits on the number of immigrants were needed because of pressure on public services , he argued.
The UK Independence Party also wants a points system for economic migration but complains there are no limits on the number of EU workers coming to the UK.
This all points to a hardening of attitudes from all parties as public fears over immigration starts to influence the forthcoming election.
How will this affect you?
Anyone concerned or worried about the possible impact of the proposed changes should seek professional advice. At this stage, however, we do not know the precise details of the proposed new rules, how they will be implemented or when they will come into force.
One thing that is certain is that things are going to get tougher for anyone, especially the lower skilled, wishing to come and settle in the UK. Our advice is simply this:
If you are planning to make any application for work permits, work permit extensions, dependant visas, settlement and citizenship, DO IT NOW!