Alp Mehmet is a former Immigration Officer who transferred to the Diplomatic Service. He retired recently as Ambassador to Iceland. He is now a member of the Advisory Council of MigrationwatchUK.
2010 was not a good year for those who believe that feeble border control can be consistent with trouble-free race relations and community harmony. Their preferred response to the stresses and tensions that come in the wake of mass and unplanned migration was to go into a collective, multicultural, huddle. Nevertheless, there were signs that even these migration ostriches were raising their eyes above the sand to take a peek at reality.
In April, Tim Finch, Director of Communications at IPPR (the Institute of Public Policy and Research) wrote:
“…Just because migration is very often a ‘good thing’ doesn’t mean that more of it is necessarily better. Indeed for it to be a good thing, it needs to take place in circumstances in which the country of origin and country of destination, the migrants and long term residents, all have a shared interest and enjoy shared benefits. Much the best way to achieve this is to put in place a well managed and controlled migration system based on transparent criteria for entry…”
Wow, MigrationWatch couldn’t have put it better. Indeed, MW has been saying much the same thing for nearly 10 years.
And then came the general election. Candidate after candidate knocked on doors only to find immigration coming up time and again as the issue, after the economy, that troubled the electorate most was. It was this insistent doorstep concern, which meant immigration became unavoidable in the televised leadership debates.
There were three distinct approaches to immigration: Gordon Brown trumpeted his (failing) points-based system; Nick Clegg thought he had the answer in directing immigrants to specific areas like Scotland (the Scots were not too keen) and declaring an amnesty for illegal immigrants (this went down badly with everyone, including Lib Dem supporters of whom 57% were against and only 26% in favour). David Cameron came up with what turned out to be the most attractive policy – to bring down immigration to 1990s levels; tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands of the Labour years..
Intriguingly, a YouGov poll for Migration Watch taken just after the election indicated that the Tories would have gained greater support had they gone for still firmer measures to address mass immigration. The poll also carried a clear message that the government would be held to account if they failed to bring immigration under control.
Within six weeks of coming into office, Theresa May announced an interim cap and a consultation process to consider what the permanent cap should look like. Tremendous, the Tories were actually sticking to their promise. On 23rd November, the Home Secretary announced the permanent cap, to take effect in April 2011. Days later, Immigration Minister Damian Green issued a consultation on how to deal with the explosion in the number of non-EU students (30% increase between 2008 and 2009), many of them suspected of being bogus.
We shouldn’t under-estimate the resistance that these Ministers have faced – and not just from Liberal Democrats. As Vince Cable told the two bogus constituents, he had been supported by a number of senior Tories.
What next? Much depends on the political courage of Conservative Ministers. MigrationWatch would like to see determined efforts to limit the number of bogus students, tackle the problem of sham marriages; and remove quickly those who have no right to be in Britain – such as illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers (nearly 70% of those who apply for asylum are eventually refused any form of protection).
I hope too that in 2011 more of our politicians, many new to the House of Commons, will become better informed about the impact of unchecked immigration on us all, including immigrants already here. Mass immigration is putting huge strains on our limited resources, in what is already, after the Netherlands, Europe’s most densely populated country. It has serious implications for our schools, for employment, for our health sector, for public transport and for the very character of our society. It also makes it so much more difficult, if not impossible, for our society to live harmoniously and at peace with itself.