Friday 18 February 2005, by Secretary of State for the Home Department
This strategy is the next stage of the Government’s comprehensive reform of the immigration and asylum process, which has already succeeded in strengthening our border control, reducing the level of asylum applications by 67% from its peak, and doubling the number of removals from pre-1997 levels. It builds on these foundations and supplements the comprehensive review of our legal migration routes, which the Prime Minister announced last year. It develops an approach to immigration which is simple, straightforward and robust. The strategy shows:
who we admit and why; and
who we allow to stay permanently in the UK and why.
we enforce the rules rigorously to admit only those who meet the criteria and prevent those who do not from getting here; and - we ensure people leave when they are no longer entitled to be here.
Section 2: Who we admit and why
This section sets out who can enter the UK. It demonstrates the economic benefits they bring and reaffirms our commitment to our international obligations to refugees who need our protection. It sets out how we will further develop our approach by:
introducing a transparent points system for all those who come to the UK to work
requiring a sponsor for all but the most highly skilled and bonds for specific categories where there has been evidence of abuse, where necessary to guarantee that migrant’s return home
phasing out low skilled migration schemes, in the light of new labour available from the European Union
accepting genuine refugees but preventing abuse of the asylum system within an agreed international framework
rooting out abuse of our legal system with a clampdown on bogus advisers
ending appeals from abroad to work or study
Section 3: Who we allow to stay and why
This section sets out who we allow to stay in the UK permanently, and how we will tighten the criteria further to ensure that we carefully control permanent migration to provide long term economic and social benefit. We will:
introduce English language tests for everyone who wants to stay permanent in the UK
grant refugees temporary leave to begin with and keep the situation in their countries under review. If it has not improved with in five years we would allow them to stay, if it does they will be expected to return
only allow skilled workers to settle long-term in the UK
increase the period skilled workers have to be here before being allowed to stay permanently from four years to five years - end chain migration - no immediate or automatic right for relatives to bring in more relatives
we already have tight rules about migrants’ eligibility for benefits and public services but will review them and how they are enforced to see whether any tightening is necessary.
Section 4: Secure borders
This Section sets out how within the next 5 years we will introduce a fully integrated pre-entry, border and in-country control. We will :
- introduce fingerprinting of all visa applicants (currently over 2 million a year) before they travel to the UK by 2008, to prevent people concealing their identity after entry
introduce pre-boarding electronic checks of all persons entering and leaving the UK by air
require all foreign migrants stayin in UK for more than 3 months to have an ID card with their photograph and fingerprints by 2008 - screen visa applicants for tuberculosis on high risk routes and require those diagnosed to seek treatment before they would be allowed entry to the UK
expand the network of Airline Liaison Officers (who work with carriers overseas to preventing undocumented passengers reaching the UK) - introduce fixed penalty fines on employers for each illegal worker they employ.
Section 5: Removal
The Strategy sets out the progress we have made in recent years in removing a greater absolute number and a greater proportion of failed asylum seekers. It acknowledges the importance of doing more in this area. That is why the Government wants the monthly rate of removals to exceed the number of unfounded applications by the end of 2005.We will achieve this by:
Detaining more failed asylum seekers
Introducing fast track processing of all unfounded asylum seekers, with greater control over applicants throughout the process including through more detention capacity and the use of electronic tagging. Over time, as intake falls and removals become easier as we negotiate even more effective return agreements, we will move towards the point where it becomes the norm that those who fail can be detained.
Preventing applicants concealing their identity to frustate removal. We will continue to prosecute those who arrive without documents and ask airlines to copy passengers documents on more high risk routes. We fingerprint people from some high risk countries on arrival.
Working with countries which generate the most failed asylum seekers to ensure that they re-document and accept back failed asylum seekers. We will place this at the centre of our relationship, supporting them in their efforts, including through a new migration fund, but making clear failure to co-operate will have implications for our wider relationship - including their access to some migration schemes.
Expanding our voluntary returns schemes, maximising returns to safe countries and finding ways to return unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
Foreword by the Prime Minister
This five year plan for our immigration and asylum system is based on three sound principles. It shows how we are going to enforce strict controls to root out abuse. It will ensure Britain continues to benefit from people from abroad who work hard and add to our prosperity. And, importantly, it puts forward solutions to a difficult issue which are clear, workable and in the best interests of this country. I believe it will meet both the public’s concerns and our nation’s needs. There is no doubt that concerns over immigration have increased in recent years. But immigration, of course, is neither new nor unique to Britain. Our country’s history and success would be very different without the enterprise and energy of people who, over centuries, have come to settle here. We would be poorer in every way without them.
This is as true today as in the past. The movement of people and labour into the UK remains vital to our economy and our prosperity. Visitors from outside the European Union spend over £6 billion a year and those from within the EU billions more. Overseas students spend a further £2.7 billion on goods and services and £2.3 billion on tuition fees. Our vital public services depend upon skilled staff from overseas. Far from being a burden on these services, our expanding NHS, for example, would have difficulty meeting the needs of patients without foreign-born nurses and doctors. The expertise of IT and finance professionals from India, the USA and the EU help maintain London as the financial centre of the world. Managed migration is not just good for this country. It is essential for our continued prosperity.
And, of course, levels of migration into Britain are far less than into many other countries. Even today, we have a lower level of foreignborn nationals than Australia, Germany and the United States. The rise in people coming here in recent years has been in line with most of our European neighbours and far less than in Spain, Ireland, Australia or the US. And migration is not all one way. Thousands of Britons leave for a life abroad every year.
I believe the people of this country understand all this. It is in their nature to be moderate and tolerant. They have, over many decades, welcomed those who desperately need a safe haven. This generosity and tolerance helps explain why race relations here have, in general, been a quiet success story. And many of us now, of course, are first or second-generation immigrants ourselves.
But this traditional tolerance is under threat. It is under threat from those who come and live here illegally by breaking our rules and abusing our hospitality. And, unless we act to tackle abuses, it could be increasingly exploited by extremists to promote their perverted view of race.
The challenge for the Government is to maintain public confidence in the system by agreeing immigration where it is in the country’s interests and preventing it where it is not. We have made progress towards these goals over the last eight years. We have sorted out the asylum shambles we inherited. Asylum applications are, for example, now less than half their peak. Removals have doubled since before 1997. Backlogs are sharply down. We have increased investment in extra immigration staff and equipment. But at the same time, we have enabled skilled staff to come here to fill the vacancies our growing economy has created.
We now need to build on these foundations to root out remaining abuses and ensure the whole system works in the interests of this country. This five year plan explains how. There will be a new drive to prevent illegal entry, to crack down on illegal working and a tough policy of removals for those who should not be here. There will be on-the-spot fines for employers who collude with illegal immigration. We will fingerprint visitors who need visas, and those planning longer stays, before they arrive. We will, where necessary, use our powers to demand financial bonds from migrants in specific categories where there has been evidence of abuse, to guarantee their return home. And over time, we will move towards the point where it becomes the norm that those who fail can be detained, as asylum intake falls and removals become easier as we negotiate ever more effective returns agreements.
We will replace out-dated and confusing rules with a clear and modern points system so we only allow into Britain the people and skills our economy needs. Those who want to settle permanently in the UK will have to show they bring long-termbenefits to our country. But while making the rules strict and workable, we will make sure we don’t slam the door on those genuine refugees fleeing death and persecution. I believe the changes we will introduce will meet the needs of the country and maintain public confidence in our immigration and asylum system.