By Ramzan Sharif – Solicitor/Director at Fountain Solicitors, Walsall
With the upcoming election in mind, here is an outline of the immigration policies on offer.
The Conservatives have a continuing commitment to bring down net immigration to below 100,00 (it currently stands at around 298,000, a figure higher than when they came to office). The Conservatives plan to do this by making the UK a less desirable place to be by restricting access to benefits for example reducing entitlement to social housing. EU nationals would not be spared either and have their benefit entitlements reduced. They also plan to renegotiate EU free movement rights although suggesting that this is possible whilst remaining in the EU is debatable.
THE LABOUR PARTY
Labour accept that ‘Immigration is important for Britain’s future and that’s why it needs to be properly controlled and managed’ and claims that they are ‘proud of our diverse and outward-facing country’. They do however accept that people have concerns and would introduce some reforms including increasing fines for employing illegal immigrants (which currently carries a maximum penalty of 20,000 per worker), making it easier to deport foreign criminals and have a ‘smarter system of controls’ as well as preventing migrants from accessing benefits for 2 years. A referendum on the EU seems unlikely.
THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
The Liberal Democrats continue to be open about their support for immigration as long as it is well managed. Nick Clegg stated ‘The Liberal Democrats are never going to mimic the likes of UKIP and others – the scaremongering, the immigrant-bashing, the seductive promise that all of our problems will disappear if only we shut up shop and stick a ‘closed’ sign on the door’.
That said, the Liberal Democrats have suggested the following reforms. Reintroduce exit checks on borders so the government can identify people who are overstaying their visas. Jobseekers Allowance would be conditional on English language skills. They would ensure that EU migrants ‘earn’ their entitlement to benefits for example in work benefits would only be paid to those migrants working the equivalent of 35 hours a week on minimum wage.
Introduce an Australian style points policy to assess migrants with the relevant skills and attributes needed in the UK (Many will know that of course a Points-Based System already exists to do just that). Bring net immigration down to 50,000 a year. Opt out of Dublin II to allow the UK to return asylum seekers to other EU countries without considering their claim. And of course withdrawal from the EU.
UKIP would also introduce tighter restrictions on people bringing foreign spouses and children to the UK, reintroducing the ‘primary purpose’ rule which requires applicants to prove that the primary purpose of their marriage was not to obtain British residency. When abolished by Labour in 1997 it was described as ‘arbitrary, unfair and ineffective’ as it penalised genuine cases and divided families.
UKIP suggest that refugees would be protected however Nigel Farage disputes the current definition of a refugee. He has also been known to express viewssuch as the UK should take Syrian Christian refugees but not Muslim refugees. His commitment to refugees remains to be seen.
THE GREEN PARTY
Reduce UK immigration controls and increase rights for asylum seekers. The Green party confirms that migration policy would not discriminate directly on the grounds of race, colour, religion, political belief disability, sex or sexual orientation. They would allow all migrants who have been in the UK for over 5 years illegally to remain so long as they did not pose a serious danger to public safety and not favour foreign nationals who have ‘resources’ i.e. money. Natalie Bennett states that ‘we must demand that human rights and human feelings are respected’.
What does all of this mean for migrants currently in the UK or those with families abroad? With the raft of immigration changes over the last few years, it seems that more will be forthcoming. It provides a certain degree of uncertainty for the many legitimate migrants in the UK and concern for those who have fled persecution only to potentially find themselves in a hostile environment where basic human rights are no longer the priority. One thing is for sure, the immigration rules and laws in place at present have become so complex that migrants and potential migrants are finding it a real challenge to navigate and abide by them.
If you are an individual or a business who has any concerns about the above, please contact us on 01922 645 429. We are immigration specialists who offer advice on all matters relating to immigration and asylum law
36 Bradford Street
Tel: 01922 645 429