Tuesday, July 5, 2022
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As Johnson blusters, immigration soars ever higher

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IT gives me not a scintilla of pleasure to say that the government’s immigration policies and their hugely damaging impact go from bad to worse. Nor does it give me any satisfaction to point out that it is all unfolding much as we forecast at Migration Watch.

According to figures released by the Home Office on May 26, a record million people were granted visas to live in the UK in 2021. 

This could be the highest level of immigration that the UK has ever experienced. We can’t be absolutely certain because of delays and confusion over the capturing of the necessary data; not least as a result of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) abandoning the International Passenger Survey at the start of the pandemic and then failing to bring back the part focusing on long-term migration (LTM).

The delays and incomplete data sources have exacerbated the problem and allowed the government to get away with claiming all was hunky dory. Immigration was under control and coming down, it said.

What is more, on Monday we were informed of yet another scheme, this one to invite graduates (of any nationality) from certain universities around the world to come, with their dependants (spouses, partners, children), and look for work, whatever it may be. Batty.

The paper introducing the new points-based immigration system (PBS) last year clearly stated: ‘We want employers to focus on training and investing in our domestic workforce.’ 

The PBS and the latest scheme for sucking in international graduates who can’t find a job in the countries where they have been studying do the opposite of this. And the much lower skills and salary thresholds and the removal of the cap on work permits make it much easier for workers in 80 per cent of the world’s countries to come and take a job here.

Inexplicably the government even removed the rule, supported by nearly eight in ten of the public, requiring employers to advertise locally before looking to recruit from abroad. This, despite 4million or more people in the UK who are either looking for work or seeking more hours.

The claim by some politicians, academics and business leaders that ‘soft’ borders are necessary to allow for the hiring of the best and brightest workers is utterly spurious. What they are really after is an ever cheaper and more controllable workforce.

Weak borders and immigration rules do not feed the economic needs of the country. The colossal visa grants (way above pre-pandemic levels) and attendant chain immigration – entry grants for the relatives of people coming here on other visas – amounted to a phenomenal 200,000 people (including 75,000 family members of overseas students) who have near-full access to the UK labour market, can work in any skill level (no salary or skill test required) and can engage in study. There is no English language test and children are entitled to state education. See our recent tweet:

One Conservative MP has had the brass neck to write to a constituent (who forwarded the letter to Migration Watch) that the Conservatives did not promise lower immigration in the run-up to the 2019 General Election. He clearly failed to read the party manifesto on which he stood. On page 20, it reads‘overall numbers will come down’. 

The MP obviously also missed his leader’s interview on Sky News on the Sunday before the 2019 election when he told Sophy Ridge that immigration would come down with the introduction of the points-based system. This was not the only occasion on which the pledge was made.

To put the latest figure of a million visa entry grants in the course of a year into context, the previous record estimate for immigration by non-UK nationals was significantly lower. In the year to March 2016, drawing on administrative data, the ONS estimated that 750,000 people came.

So we are in uncharted territory. However, the one thing we can be confident of is that by the time of the next General Election the level of net immigration will very likely be even higher than it is now. This, to add to the massive immigration levels and the changes to our society that we have witnessed over the past 20 years.

Indeed, late last year London was named as the world’s most congested city. The traffic analyst INRIX said the capital’s drivers lose an average of 148 hours sitting in traffic each year. Other UK conurbations named in this dubious hall of fame were Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter and Cheltenham. You can read more in our summary here. 

Excluding island nations and city states, England (which now has a population density of 430 people per square km) is the most crowded nation in Europe (and the UK as a whole has the highest population density of any large country on the continent).

England is nearly twice as crowded as Germany (with just under 230 people per sq/km) and nearly four times as crowded as France (fewer than 120). See our population brief here.

Perhaps, some, if not all, the above prompted a brilliant comment piece in the Times on May 30, where Clare Foges asked the perfectly reasonable question of how much more immigration can Britain sustain? The implication being that it is too high to continue without the consent of the electorate. Indeed, this was an echo of what a certain aspiring Prime Minister said in 2016:

‘To add a city the size of Newcastle to the UK every year . . . let me put it this way, it’s too high to do without consent . . . That is the issue. There is no consent. It might be that a party or government or politicians could persuade people if they believed that it was a good thing and it turbocharged the economy and all the rest of it. What is not acceptable is to say there’s nothing we can do, that’s just the way it is.’

One might ask the Prime Minister what happened, given that a majority of people have consistently said immigration is too high. Boris Johnson and his Conservative predecessors have, after all, been pledging lower immigration levels for 12 years – and consistently failing to deliver.

Going back to last week’s extraordinary figures, with immigration at record levels, what has driven these hikes? Easy – it was the irresponsibly loose points-based system that was meant to fix immigration.

Meanwhile, our borders might as well not be there, with illegal immigration across the Channel in boats three times what it was this time last year. If it continues at the current rate, we are heading towards 90,000 crossing in dinghies by end of year. And let’s not forget those coming in the back of lorries.  See our boat tracking station. 

Oh, and let’s not forget the resettlement of assorted refugees, including 90,000 arriving from Hong Kong, 10,000 or so from Afghanistan and (quite rightly) more than 60,000 who have already arrived from Ukraine.

The government’s failure to deliver on pledges to the electorate on immigration while claiming policies are either in our interests (actually, big business’s interests) or that they will eventually work, won’t wash any more.

Many feel the trust they placed in Johnson to control and reduce immigration has been betrayed. All we can hope for now is that he and his government will have the nous and spine to deliver on the substantial reduction in immigration they and their Conservative predecessors have been promising for 12 years.

As you said, Prime Minister, what is not acceptable is to say: ‘There’s nothing we can do, that’s just the way it is.’

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Alp Mehmet
Alp Mehmet
Chairman of Migration Watch UK, former British diplomat.

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