In a different slant on the continuing speculation over net migration figures, the Guardian reports that thinktank IPPR claims government is still unlikely to fulfil pledge of cutting net immigration to ‘tens of thousands’, but it will fall anyway partly due to the economic conditions.
Immigration to the UK is expected to fall by tens of thousands this year with the reduction due largely to economic factors, says a report published on Sunday.
Projections by the Institute for Public Policy Research, an independent thinktank, suggest that hard economic times in Britain will lead to a reduction in EU and non-EU migrants to 180,000 from around 220,000 in 2011.
However, the forecast drop, based on figures from the Home Office and Office for National Statistics along with IPPR analysis of the economic outlook and effects of government policy, is still significantly short of the coalition’s election pledge to reduce net immigration to “tens of thousands”.
The continuing financial crisis, allied to the government’s attempts to reduce migrant numbers coming into Britain, is calculated to prompt a fall in non-EU immigration of about 10%. Similarly, numbers of EU migrants are predicted to dwindle due to the continuing economic downturn.
The analysis gives a critical assessment of the government’s approach, claiming its strategy is likely to harm any prospect of economic recovery, while its flagship policy – the cap on the number of skilled migrants outside the EU allowed into the UK – has had no impact. IPPR economists say the sluggish global economy has meant that the imposed cap of 21,700 has been irrelevant because British businesses are hiring fewer people.
“It is slightly odd to see a government making a virtue of their flagship policy not actually having had any effect,” cites the report. “The more serious conclusion is that the experience of the cap so far should not be seen as a vindication of the policy.”
With regard to illegal immigration, the IPPR concludes that the “coalition has failed to make any headway”. The thinktank accuses the government of massaging figures that purport to show that the number of illegal migrants being removed from the UK is growing.
“Beyond this, the government’s new policies amount to little more than a somewhat gimmicky, and arguably rather unpleasant, ‘shop-an-illegal’ helpline,” says the report.
However, by failing to come close to reaching its stated election promise on reducing immigration, the IPPR warns that the government will only inflame people’s disquiet over the issue. “By promising what it cannot deliver, the government, far from achieving its aim of taking the heat out of this emotive issue, will instead feed the public’s sense of disillusionment,” it warns.
One toxic issue is the predicted fall in the number of foreign prisoners deported from the UK. Despite forecasting inevitable media furore over the figures, along with the “generally disappointing performance on removing irregular migrants and refused asylum-seekers”, the IPPR says such initiatives will be hampered by UK Border Agency spending cuts. Asylum numbers, it predicts, will hover around the 20,000 mark of recent years.
Immigration policies identified as having a detrimental effect on the economy include attempts to reduce foreign student numbers dramatically, in particular by removing the option for them to stay in the UK and work after graduation.
Another policy likely to hamper economic recovery are recommendations to raise the income threshold of those allowed to stay permanently in the UK to between £31,000 and £49,000. Even the organisation that made the recommendations, the Migration Advisory Committee, admits they might “have a negative impact on GDP” and might dissuade gifted migrants from contemplating living in Britain. The IPPR warns that the “brightest and best” might simply opt to work elsewhere.
Ministers, however, remain convinced that government policies are working, saying the report’s forecasts are “consistent with hitting our target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands by the end of this parliament”.
The immigration minister, Damian Green, said: “The latest quarterly figures show that student visas issued are down 13% and the main work visas issued are down 18% compared to last year – an early sign that our policies are starting to take effect.” Source: The Guardian.
There is little the government can do to curb EU immigration, however in December the Home Office extended employment restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians for two more years until the end of 2013. In July the UK Border Agency added new requirements – e.g. Comprehensive Sickness Insurance cover – to the ‘Yellow Card’ registration process.
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