The UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson has admitted for the first time that the government has made mistakes in handling immigration, the BBC reported yesterday.
Labour and Conservative administrations had been “maladroit” in dealing with the issue, he said in a speech at the RSA.
Mr Johnson said parts of the UK had been “disproportionately” affected by immigration, with some areas seeing a “strain” on jobs and public services.
But the UK was now “more successful” at tackling migration than most countries in Europe and North America, he added.
The admission comes a week after the Home Office said that up to 40,000 immigrants who should have left more than six years ago could still be in Britain.
The government has faced criticism despite introducing a new points-based system last year to control the entry of non-EU citizens to the UK.
Mr Johnson told an audience at the Royal Society for the Arts in London:
“Whilst I accept that governments of both persuasions, including this one, have been maladroit in their handling of this issue, I do believe that the UK is now far more successful at tackling migration than most of its European and North American neighbours.”
“The legacy problems with unreturned foreign national prisoners and asylum seekers may have accumulated under previous administrations, but they continued to be ignored for far too long on our watch.” He added.
Mr Johnson rejected “fashionable” criticisms that mainstream politicians “shied away” from talking about immigration. He said:
“I want to talk about immigration today, tomorrow, next week and on any occasion I can.”
The “moderate majority” had not had their views heard on the issue, he said.
At the same time as accepting genuine refugees, they wanted Britain to return home illegal immigrants, failed asylum seekers and foreign national prisoners.
Mr Johnson said there was “no sensible argument” for immigration to cease altogether.
But people who come to live in the UK should learn the language, obey the laws and pay tax, he added. Source: BBC
Immigration Matters Comment
It is refreshing to hear a government Minister admit shortcomings, especially on such a controversial issue as immigration.
Setting aside ‘managed migration’, which has been controlled by the government under the old Work Permit and the new Points-Based System, the age old problem of asylum cases was around before Labour came to power, and will be when they cease to be in power.
There will always be a large number of people seeking asylum in countries like the UK. To be fair to the government, recent asylum cases are dealt with far more efficiently than in the past.
No administration has been able to cope with the influx of people claiming asylum and the sheer number of cases has clogged up the system at the Home Office.
Immigration refusals are met with a series of appeals and even Judicial Reviews frequently ending with a point blank refusal by the migrant to leave the UK even when they have lost their case.
Immigration Matters recently reported that there is backlog of 450,000 historic ‘legacy’ asylum cases which former Home Secretary John Reid pledged to clear by 2011.
The UK has an estimated 500,000 – 750,000 illegal workers, and leading think tank, ippr, says it would take 20 years and £5 billion to remove them.
The London School of Economics said in a recently published a report that granting amnesty to long-term illegal immigrants in the UK, could add up to £3bn to the economy. The LSE report added that an amnesty would not lead to a rise in migration but would raise spending on welfare services and housing.
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