Home Office Minister Liam Byrne has announced the creation of a new government committee which will examine the social impact of immigration.
The decision to set up the Migration Impact Forum (MIF) goes further than previous announcements this year. The government is currently implementing a five year plan to completely overhaul the UK’s immigration system.
In the past immigration policy has been based on the economic needs of the country. The Home Office will now take into account the strain placed on public services such as the NHS and schools by immigrants, as well as on housing and transport.
But Mr Byrne said the forum, which he will jointly Chair with Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) Under Secretary, Lord Triesman, would also examine the impact of migration on “community cohesion” and would report to the proposed Migration Advisory Committee which will set quotas for migrant workers through the new Australian-style points-based system.
Measuring community cohesion was not “an exact science,” added Mr Byrne, but he said “we will be establishing the means to take into account the wider impact of immigration”.
The government has already announced plans to strengthen border controls, including ID cards for all immigrants and greater use of technology such as iris scans to check identity.
But it is also planning a radical shake-up of the visa system, which could have a major impact on UK residents and citizens who want to bring overseas family members into the country.
In a document published this week ‘Securing the UK Borders’, the Home Office outlines far reaching plans to reform the visa system. Measures include “off-shore” border controls, an overhaul of visitor’s visas and the introduction of a new US style visa waiver programme.
By the end of 2007 all non EEA countries will be subject to a new ‘Visa Waiver Test’, which will assess whether or not a visa regime needs to be maintained in certain countries.
In 2005 UK Visas, through its posts around the world, processed 2.5 million visa applications of which 2 million were approved. Put another way, 500,000 people were refused entry clearance or a visa.
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