By Tim Montgomerie
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One of the top issues for voters is immigration and the Coalition is unlikely to meet David Cameron's promise to reduce net immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands without further measures. Many of those further measures are being blocked by the Liberal Democrats. If the Lib Dems continue to be a roadblock the Prime Minister or Home Secretary needs to go public and explain to voters that they'll only get proper control of the nation's borders if they elect a Conservative government.
MigrationWatch has recommended a number of measures to further bear down on immigration. Three of the most important are:
- Restoration of interviews for students: This would return to overseas immigration officers overseas the discretion to decide whether an applicant was indeed a genuine student and genuinely intended to return home. Both our major competitors, the United States and Australia have such interviews. There is no reason why they should not be restored for applicants to study in the UK. With half a million non EU students arriving every year and no checks on departure, this is essential.
- The Post Study Route is at present open to any graduate of about 600 institutions, whatever the class of their degree, provided only that they can persuade an employer to pay them £20,000. At a time when 20% of recent graduates are unemployed and another 30% are employed in non-graduate tasks, we believe this is indefensible. We would favour this Post Study Route being confined to those with a minimum of 2 years study in the UK and a Bachelor degree in Maths, Engineering or Science but still subject to a labour market test.
- The authorities can now fine employers £5,000 a head for each illegal immigrant employed. However, this is not being properly enforced and the fines are not being fully collected. A much tougher approach is needed.
If measures such as these (and there'll need to be others) do not become Coalition policy they can still be Tory policy – promoted by Conservative MPs and an activist Tory Party Chairman.