UK urged to drop immigration reduction target
The British Government has been urged to drop its target of reducing net migration to just tens of thousands a year by one of its own parliamentary committees.
The UK parliament’s Home Affairs Committee says, in a new report, that failure to meet the target undermines public trust in the nation’s immigration system.
The committee said that, instead, immigration policies should consider the UK’s needs and humanitarian obligations.
It said fears about the scale of illegal immigration have grown because of a lack of official data.
Annual net migration to the UK is currently 230,000 and the target of reducing it to tens of thousands was set by David Cameron at the beginning of the coalition government in 2010, but that figure has never been met.
In its report, the committee says the target is not working to build confidence and does not reflect the public’s view on how different forms of migration should be treated.
It said the continued discrepancy between the target and reality has damaged the British public’s view of the immigration system.
The report recommends the Britain switches to an Australian or Canada-style model – which is run on a points system that uses evidence to come up with a framework of targets and controls for different types of immigration.
It also suggests: setting up an annual migration report, which details the economic contribution from migration, impacts, and actions on skills and integration; a greater focus on border enforcement, as well as criminal and security checks; more weight be given to high-skilled workers in the immigration system; and, the creation of a permanent resettlement program for asylum seekers.
It also says that foreign students, who are currently part of the UK’s net migration statistics, should be removed from the target altogether.
To date, the government has resisted calls to take that step, despite arguments that the majority of students come to study and then return home – and make a significant positive economic contribution to the country.
The committee said the lack of data on illegal immigration was perceived as the government showing “indifference” towards an issue of “high public interest”.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist