Figures released today showed net migration rising to 318,000, its highest level since 2005 and a far cry from David Cameron’s promise to cut net migration to the tens of thousands. With free movement of labour guaranteed between countries in the EU, this was never a sensible promise to make. The truth is, as long as free movement remains in place, no government can have any real control over net migration whatsoever. For as long as the UK economy out-performs it’s European neighbours, net migration will be destined to remain high. This has always been the elephant in the room.
To try and mask this rather large elephant, the Government of David Cameron has talked up all sorts of measures to ‘tackle’ immigration which will do nothing of the sort. Today, they decided to sink to a new low in an attempt to appear to be doing something – anything. They’ve previously tried to blame the rules around social security benefits on high immigration, but there is no evidence that what has been labelled ‘benefit tourism’ actually exists. Cameron’s latest foray into ‘being seen to do something’ territory is to go after the right wing presses’ favourite bogey man – the illegal immigrant.
Cameron today announced plans to legislate to allow police to confiscate the earnings of anyone found to be working illegally. It is estimated there may be up to 300,000 in the UK who have overstayed their visas, but how many of those are working is not known. 300,000 is less than half the number of migrants that came here just in 2014. In short, it is not a big problem, and certainly not something that is going to make a dent in the net migration figures (if that is indeed its intention).
Over-blowing this issue and pretending it has anything to do with high net migration is a rather nasty thing to do, because, like the so-called ‘racist vans‘, it can create a climate of fear and suspicion in communities already feeling alienated from British society. This is purely about political expediency, not addressing a problem that actually needs to be solved.
Cameron also announced his intention today to see if he could also limit the numbers of high-skilled migrants coming from outside the EU. He can’t do anything about unskilled EU migrants coming here, so this is all he has left, but it’s exceptionally dumb. So dumb and nasty all on one day. Must be a Conservative Government.