UK Gov should challenge migration myths and inaccuracies

The Home Affairs Select Committee recently published its report on and recommendations on the UK Government’s immigration policy and principles for building consensus inquiry.

The 60 page report [PDF] is based on a wide range of written and oral evidence gathered over a year.

  • The report calls for the principle of asylum to be upheld and calls on the UK Government to honour its commitments to bring unaccompanied children from Europe and elsewhere (under the Dubs scheme and Dublin III regulations as well as “through family reunion routes within and outside the immigration rules”).
  • The committee criticised the UK Government’s reliance on its ‘hostile environment’ policy for enforcement and echoed concerns about accuracy and error.
  • The report recommended that a Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme be permanently established in conjunction with UNHCR to welcome refugees from other countries as well as Syria.

The committee will now continue to look at serious deficiencies in the effectiveness and operation of detention centres and reports of abuse.

The bulk of the report’s findings are grouped around five themes, with some key recommendations summarised below.

Immigration policy should be informed by honest and open debate and supported by evidence.

“The Government’s existing net migration target set at ‘the tens of thousands’ is not working to build confidence or consent [and] the continued discrepancy between the target and reality has damaged the public’s view of the immigration system.”

“We call on the Government to be more proactive in challenging myths and inaccuracies about immigration and the asylum system, including by publishing more factual information about the costs and benefits of immigration at local and national levels. As we set out below, this could be achieved by an Annual Migration Report and debate.”

Fair and clear rules need to be properly enforced.

The committee welcomed the Home Secretary’s commitment to “simplifying immigration law”. They added: “People are less likely to have confidence in a system which they cannot understand or access easily. These clearer rules should be underpinned by clear principles and values-reflecting for example the importance of contributing to the country and the economy, supporting family life, safeguarding security, meeting international humanitarian obligations, and the rights and responsibilities of those who come. Information needs to be provided in a clear, consistent and easily accessible format, especially online.”

“It is clear there are serious deficiencies in the effectiveness and operation of detention at present. We are looking further at the use of immigration detention following the revelations of abuse at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre.”

“The Government should not rely on its ‘hostile environment’ policy as a panacea for enforcement and building confidence, especially given the current concerns about accuracy and error. We are concerned that the policy is unclear and, in some instances, too open to interpretation and inadvertent error. Not only can these errors be deeply damaging and distressing to those involved-as with letters being sent to EU nationals about their right to live in the UK-they also undermine the credibility of the system. Recent high-profile reports of the Home Office threatening to deport individuals based on inaccurate and untested information, and before an independent appeal process, risk undermining the credibility of the whole system. This is particularly worrying in advance of the need to register EU nationals in preparation for Brexit.”

There should be different approaches for different types of immigration.

“There should be no diminution in the UK’s approach towards its international humanitarian obligations as it leaves the European Union. The UK has a proud tradition in providing support to those fleeing persecution and the principle has widespread public support. The principle of asylum-with the internationally recognised degree of evidence required-must be upheld. The Government should make every effort to honour its existing commitments to bring unaccompanied children from Europe and elsewhere, both as part of the Dubs scheme and the Dublin III Regulation but also through family reunion routes within and outside the Immigration Rules.”

“Evidence to our inquiry and from the National Conversation suggests that any approach that treats all migration as the same encourages polarisation of the debate. Treating different kinds of migration differently would reflect most people’s views of immigration, and allow for much greater consensus to be built into the debate, as well as for greater transparency over immigration policy in general … Different targets or controls for different kinds of migration should be set out in the Annual Migration Report, as part of a three- year migration plan. Doing so would allow for more specific consideration of the costs and benefits of immigration and might help to build greater consensus behind different approaches to different kinds of migration.”

The committee recognised “the success of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme” which was “well-managed and well-funded” and recommended that “a resettlement scheme along similar lines to the Syrian VPRS should be established on a permanent basis, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which would apply to refugees from other countries.”

Noting evidence of artificial barriers around fees regular visa extensions, salary thresholds and qualifying periods to people living a settled life in the UK, the committee stated that “we believe that striving to meet the best interests of families and children should be at the heart of immigration policy.”

Immigration should work for the economic and social interest of the UK and its citizens.

“The public need reassurance that the contributory principle is embedded in the immigration system to address concerns that some people might be attracted to the UK because of our system of welfare.” The report recommended that an Annual Migration Report “should set out the details of the expected contributions and entitlements of new arrivals in the UK in the different immigration categories”.

Action is needed to address the impact of immigration on local communities.

“We recommend that funding for English language courses should be separate from the Controlling Migration Fund and should be restored to previous levels. The ability to speak English has been identified in opinion surveys as a key factor in effective integration of migrants and we agree that it makes an essential contribution in this respect.”

“People are more likely to integrate if they are staying for longer. Greater churn of people is harder for community relations. The Government should ensure that immigration rules do not simply encourage higher levels of temporary migration at the expense of long term settlement and commitment to this country. It should review pathways to settlement and citizenship to encourage greater certainty for applicants and promote integration.”