Cameron's cynical immigration proposal will only benefit UKIP

21 May 2015
David Cameron’s announcement of yet another immigrant “crackdown” is beyond cynical. In 2010 he made a pledge to bring down immigration to the tens of thousands. We now know that the last official quarterly net migration figures revealed net migration was 298,000 last year. Far from cutting the numbers of migrants, there are 54,000 more.

The truth is that legal migration is influenced by underlying economic factors. Contrary to what Conservative and Labour politicians insist on implying, migrants come to work not to claim. So stigmatising them will make their lives more difficult, but it will not stop them coming. The economic drivers of migration in a globalised economy are too strong to be affected by ill-thought out “anti-immigrant” measures.

Cameron’s signature proposal is creating new powers to prosecute illegal immigrants and confiscate their wages. This is more breathtaking cynicism. In 2013, the last year for which figures are available, the Tory led government prosecuted a mere 13 employers for employing illegal immigrants. If the government was serious about stopping illegal immigrants working why is not it having a major drive against their employers?

Cameron is also saying that he wants to confiscate the wages of illegal immigrants. But this will largely be ineffectual, because illegal immigrants are paid cash in hand. Why is he not also talking about confiscating the profits of employers who employ illegal immigrants? The failure to target employers is the clue that Cameron’s proposals are more about stigmatising immigrants and pandering to UKIP voters rather than doing anything practical about exploitation in the labour market.

Cutting the number of skilled workers from outside the EU allowed into the UK will be bad for business and the economy. Employers are already talking about skill shortages. Cameron’s proposals will make matters worse.

Other proposals are either pointless, should be already happening or are impossible to implement without more spending on manpower and resources.

For instance Cameron’s proposal for satellite tracking tags for foreign criminals awaiting deportation, so government always knows exactly where they are might sound like a common-sense idea. But foreign criminals awaiting deportation would be in prison originally. But there is reason that it has not proved possible to deport them direct directly from prison. The reason is that the disorganized Home Office bureaucrats cannot seem to get the information, about a convicted criminal being subject to deportation, from the Immigration Department to the individual prisons in a timely fashion. Without the file from the Immigration department prisons are obliged to release foreign prisoners into the community. But satellite tracking sounds exciting but is simply masking existing organizational failure.

Cameron’s proposals will not bring down the level of immigration, legal or illegal. What they will do is contribute to an atmosphere where “immigrants” are increasingly demonized. And only one political party ultimately benefits from that – UKIP.

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