Lord Green is Chairman of MigrationWatch UK.
The enthusiasm to be found in certain quarters for a Points Based System for immigration control is simply amazing. It has already been tried in the UK and has proved a disastrous failure.
It has worked in Australia but in a totally different context where:
- The objective is not to restrict immigration. Both the Australian government and the main opposition party pursue a policy of population growth partly supported by immigration.
- As a proportion of their population, Australian net migration is three times higher than the UK.
There are other major differences which should be obvious:
- Their location in the middle of a huge ocean.
- Their autonomy over their visa system. The UK has some 500 million EU citizens who can enter at will.
- A legal system which does not have to cope with the European Convention on Human Rights.
That said, the Australian system has been reasonably successful in its own terms but for the reasons outlined above, not because of their Points Based System which, on examination, that turns out to be:
- Extremely complex.
- Applicable only to job seekers. (Employers have a different route).
- Only covers 15 per cent of all migrants.
So how it is that the Australian Points Based System keeps cropping up in the British debate? It must be because the term has become shorthand for an effective system and, perhaps for that reason, it is regarded by some as an electoral asset. If so, it is fool’s gold.
Our own experience should underline the point. The previous government attempted a Points Based System which was explicitly designed to eliminate human judgement. The effect was a shambles of which the most obvious example was the massive surge of bogus students from the Indian sub-continent in 2008. At one point the visa sections had to be closed to stem the flood of applications. Subsequently, the National Audit Office found that some 50,000 students “might” have intended to work rather than study. We cannot go back to that kind of chaos.
Migration Watch’s paper on a points-based system can be read here.