There’s a lot of tough talk on immigration, but not enough is being done to bring down immigrant numbers from the hundreds of thousands experienced under the last Labour government, to the tens of thousands, promised by the Conservatives at the last general election.
Last month, the Office of National Statistics, published the latest immigration figures, which highlight only marginal progress being made in tackling Britain’s extant immigration crisis.
Some of these small steps have reduced student visa fraud, but the same cannot be said for tackling the rampant abuse of family, work, and tourist visas. The same applies to gripping short-stay visa fraud. These are visas issued to non-EU citizens who accompany their EU relatives to Britain. All continue to be misused and misapplied on an industrial scale.
Like all illegal immigrants they take advantage of British tolerance and exploit every legal and technical loophole inherited under the liberal visa regime left over from the last Labour administration. In turn, illegal overstayers continue to take up permanent and illegal residency in Britain.
From the cost of interpreters in schools and hospitals, to increased demand for public and private sector housing, to cheap labour, the scale of immigration into Britain is impacting on the ‘bread and butter’ life-experiences of thousands of British families – from coast to coast. Ministers are right to talk about the advantages of controlled immigration, and there are many, but little is said of the disadvantages of uncontrolled immigration.
However, immigration is not the only cause of crowded public services. The hidden multiplier effect felt in countless urban and rural communities is the often dramatic change brought to local communities by supposedly, ‘temporary EU migration’. In reality, these temporary migrants become permanent immigrants. Something Whitehall prefers not to talk about.
Both large and small communities bear witness to the varied and cumulative effects of the ‘legal’ free movement and ‘settlement’ of peoples from other EU countries into Britain; a phenomenon sociologists claim is having a far greater social and economic impact on communities than any ‘illegal’ non-EU immigration. That is why it is inaccurate for illegal immigrants to be made the scapegoats for any community tensions caused by EU immigrants.
Moreover, with increasing unemployment in the eurozone and the wider European Union, further sharp increases in EU immigration could follow. For those EU immigrants unable to find work they will probably join the tens of thousands that already work in Britain’s expanding cash in hand, and unregulated black economy, where extortion is rife and where workers human rights are non-existent. Others will probably join countless other European immigrants that avail themselves of Britain’s already over-stretched welfare system, as is their entitlement under EU law.
In work or out of work, these economic travellers will put additional pressures on Britain’s struggling public services. Couple this with the prediction that, at some point, the euro will either contract or collapse altogether, and the potential for further economic and social turmoil on the continent increases. With the very real prospect of thousands more EU immigrants queuing up at Britain’s open borders. Further, if the eurozone and wider European Union enter into a severe recession or even depression then EU immigration could well turn into a ‘surge’.
Such a scenario might be ‘events in extremis’, and may never happen, but the duty of policy makers and responsible governments is to plan for both hard and ‘soft’ threats to our borders. That is why it is the coalition government must ensure that it puts in place all the necessary ‘legal and physical’ measures to protect our borders, should these events occur.
The euro may survive, and over time, and with the right state and market remedies, the economies of Europe will undoubtedly recover. In the meantime, the government must act to put the national interest before the European interest, and protect Britain’s borders.
First published at the Huffington Post.