‘White’ immigration into Britain makes many see red

By Prasun Sonwalkar

London,(IANS) The colour of concern in Britain over immigration has changed from ‘brown’ and ‘black’ to ‘white’ as several official and unofficial reports reveal that the entry of thousands of people from the expanded European Union has put unforeseen pressure on housing, education, health and safety.

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The concerns and fears currently expressed over immigration from East European countries are similar to the ones cited when many people from Asia and Africa and the Caribbean islands migrated to Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. At the same time, official estimates say that immigration overall added about 6 billion pounds to Britain’s economy last year.

Citizens of what are called Accession 8 (A8) countries that joined the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004 are eligible to work in Britain. The eight countries are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Ireland, Sweden and Britain are the only countries that have not imposed restrictions on citizens of the A8 countries on taking up employment in these countries. Two more countries joined the EU in 2007 – Romania and Bulgaria. But Britain has not yet allowed similar work rights to citizens of these countries.

The expanded pool of employable people has led to Britain drawing up new plans to curb immigration from India and other countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Liam Bryne, the Home Office minister, has announced that in 2008 “our immigration system will have changed out of all recognition”.

Local police and officials of councils have petitioned the government for more funds to deal with the latest wave of immigration. Reports say that several areas such as parts of Cambridgeshire have been transformed into what are called ‘Warsaw suburbs’ by large concentrations of people from east Europe.

The latest cross-departmental report on the situation reveals that almost every region in the country has difficulties in housing, health, education and crime because of the increased migration. The report is to be discussed by the Migration Impacts Forum of the Home Office soon.

The report also revealed that overall the immigrants from East European countries were more highly skilled than the average for Britain-born residents. They were also wealthier than the average Britain-born resident, and earned significantly more on a weekly basis than the average Britain-born worker, it added.

Byrne said on the report: “Today we begin to strike a new balance in Britain’s migration policy – weighing the economic benefits against wider impacts. What we need to do is strike the right balance for Britain’s national interest, starting with the decision on Bulgarian and Romanian workers a little later this year.”

Setting out a 12-month programme of sweeping changes for Britain’s immigration systems and strategy, Bryne said the immigration system needed to be balanced fairly to take into account the realities of EU expansion.

From next year, a points-based system, modelled on Australia’s immigration programme, will ensure that only those who have something to offer the country will be admitted to work and study.

In addition, he said: “Three-quarters of the world’s population will need fingerprint visas – a system that gives us tougher checks abroad. A single border force with new powers will mean tougher policing at our ports and airports, and we’ll start to count people in and out of the country.”

Finally, requiring foreign nationals to carry identification cards will mean that authorities will know who they are, and can more fully control access to jobs and government benefits, he said.

Bryne added: “We will attack the root cause of illegal journeys – which is illegal jobs – with big new fast-track fines for employers”. Companies that want to sponsor immigrants moving to the UK will need to apply for a licence first as part of the new changes.

The cross-departmental report said: “The number of foreign-born in the labour force has risen noticeably, particularly following the expansion of the European
Union in 2004 and the decision to allow free movement of workers from the new Member States (the ‘A8’). According to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), in Q4 2006 people born overseas accounted for 12.5 percent of the UK working age population.”

Noting the new changes to be introduced in 2008, the report said: “Central to the design for the new system is a five-tier framework covering the main routes through which people coming to work, study or train will enter the UK; a points-based approach to determining which migrants will be successful with their applications; and the inclusion of sponsors to help ensure that the system is not being abused.

“The five Tiers of the Points-Based System will replace the existing 80 different routes by which a non-EEA national can come to the UK to work, study, or train. This will help people understand how the system works and direct applicants to the category that is most appropriate for them:

* Tier 1: Highly skilled individuals to contribute to growth and productivity
* Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in the UK labour force
* Tier 3: Limited numbers of low-skilled workers needed to fill specific temporary labour shortages
* Tier 4: Students
* Tier 5: Youth Mobility and temporary workers: people allowed into the UK for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives

“For each Tier, applicants will need sufficient points to gain entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK.”