Friday, January 31, 2014

UK 'misguided' on EU immigration policy says EU commissioner

Laszlo Andor, the EU's commissioner for social affairs and social inclusion, says that the debate on migration within the EU has become 'emotional and misguided'. He said that the press, particularly in Germany and the UK, had been printing 'myths' about immigration.

Mr Andor was speaking at the launch of new rules on the eligibility for social security benefits of EU citizens who have moved to other EU states. The European Commission hopes that these guidelines will clarify the law for member states.

Mr Andor was speaking to journalists in Brussels on 13th January 2014. He said that politicians in some EU countries, he was referring primarily to the UK and Germany, have been stirring up unease about immigration.



EU citizens will learn to ignore politicians

He said that he expected that the people of the EU would learn to disregard their politicians in future, now that a forecast 'flood' of Romanians and Bulgarians has failed to materialise.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. When they joined, most western EU countries imposed 'transitional controls' on the free movement of Romanians and Bulgarians to work within their borders. This is permissible under EU law. The transitional controls are only permitted to last for seven years and so they were removed at midnight on 31st December 2013.

Many right-wing politicians and newspapers in the UK predicted that 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians would arrive each year for the next five years. Newspapers sent journalists to meet all flights from the two countries on 1st January 2014.



25 migrants from Romania and Bulgaria

In fact, since 1st January, very few migrants seem to have arrived from the two countries in the UK. The Daily Express newspaper, which had been predicting that thousands of migrants would arrive in January, reported on Tuesday 14th January that only 25 Bulgarians and Romanians have arrived since 1st January.

Mr Andor said that the failure of the predicted flood to arrive will lead UK citizens now to 'pay more attention to the facts' about immigration and listen less to the dire predictions of the press.

Mr Andor said 'I think when people in the United Kingdom see that on 1 January there was no influx of Romanians and Bulgarians and the evidence that will help to alleviate the existing concerns. People will pay more attention to the facts'.



Domestic political agenda

He said that some of the warnings of immigration from national politicians had been made to suit the interests of politicians and their 'domestic political agenda'. This seems to be a reference to the difficulty that David Cameron, the UK's prime minister, is having as his right-wing Conservative Party loses support to the anti-EU and anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP).

Mr Andor told journalists that a proposal by Mr Cameron to prevent EU citizens, such as Poles, who work in the UK from sending child benefit back to their children in Poland would be 'discriminatory in terms of the nationality of workers who work and pay taxes in the UK'.

Mr Andor said that the UK risked looking 'nasty' by clamping down on migrants benefits.



No comment

He was also asked by journalists to comment on a proposal from the UK Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to prevent EU migrants from claiming benefits for two years after arriving in the UK. He said that he was not prepared to comment on this proposal because, as yet, this was not official UK government policy.

'We have seen so many different ideas in the last two months, so it is very difficult to respond to all of them individually. If we see any concrete proposals in an official document that makes any clarification on restrictions then we will look into them' he said.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

US Secretary of Commerce says immigration reform 'doable' in 2014

Penny Pritzker, the US's Secretary of Commerce, has told journalists that she believes that there is a good chance that the US's immigration system could be reformed in 2014.

Ms Pritzker told a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday January 8th 2014 that she was hopeful that the House of Representatives would pass an immigration reform bill already passed by the Senate in 2013.

She told her audience 'There's an enormous window in the first half of this year to actually get immigration reform done. I think the momentum is building'.



'A moral as well as an economic issue'

Speaking on Thursday 9th January 2014 in Los Angeles, Ms Pritzker raised the issue of immigration again. She told journalists that immigration reform 'must be at the top of our to-do list'. She said it is 'a moral as well as an economic issue that will create a huge 'economic opportunity' for the US.

Ms Pritzker said that it was 'crazy' that the US educates many of the world's brightest students at US universities but then does not allow these students to stay and work in the US. At present, talented students have to 'wait in line' for permanent residence visas (known as 'green cards').

Many applicants from India and China end up having to wait eight years or more for their applications to be decided.



Boehner's call

Ms Pritzker did not state which immigration bill she expects to be passed by the House of Representatives but she said that she was hopeful that the speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner, would allow a vote on one of two bills that have already been passed by the Senate.

In June 2013, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act which would
  • Increase the annual number of H-1B temporary skilled work visas' from 85,000 to over 150,000. This figure could rise above 200,000 in periods of high demand
  • Allow graduates from US universities with higher degrees to apply for green cards
  • Increase spending on border security by $4.5bn over the next four years
  • Abolish country quotas for US employment based green cards
  • Create a 'pathway to citizenship' for the estimated 11.5m illegal residents currently living in the US.



Boehner decides

Mr Boehner holds a powerful position because he decides which bills will be voted on by the House of Representatives. There are two chambers in the US Congress, the upper house, the Senate, is controlled by President Obama's Democrats, whereas the lower house, the House of Representatives, is controlled by the right-wing Republicans.

So far, Mr Boehner has refused to allow a vote on any immigration reform bill.



Boehner opposes comprehensive reform bill

But he has recently hinted that he may allow a vote on immigration reform in 2014. However, aides to Mr Boehner have told journalists that he remains opposed to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act.

'The American people are skeptical of big, comprehensive bills, and, frankly, they should be,' Mr Boehner told journalists recently. However, some US commentators believe that Mr Boehner may allow a vote on the Act to boost the Republicans' chances at the next election.

The Republicans took only 27% of the Hispanic vote at the 2012 Presidential election and many US pollsters believe that this is because of their stance on immigration. President Obama received over 70% of the Hispanic vote.



Obama promised immigration reform

At that election, Mr Obama promised to reform the immigration system to deal with the issue of the 11.5m illegal residents in the country, 80% of whom are of Hispanic descent.

At the same election, the Republican challenger Mitt Romney promised that, if he became president, he would introduce legislation to encourage illegal immigrants to leave the country by making their lives as difficult as possible.

Pollsters believe that many, perhaps most, US citizens of Hispanic descent have friends or family who are living in the US illegally. Therefore, most support the idea of an amnesty allowing illegal residents to apply for citizenship.



Republicans increasingly a party of white America

Republicans, on the other hand, are increasingly seen as the party of white America who oppose allowing illegal residents to apply for citizenship.

Since 2008 when the radical Tea Party movement began, the Republican Party has been moved to the right as Tea Party activists select candidates for Congress who support Tea Party principles.

The Tea Party is an informal grass roots movement but its goals are, broadly, to introduce cuts to the federal government, reduce taxes and to oppose immigration reform, particularly if that reform allowed illegal immigrants to stay in the US.



Pritzkers were immigrants

Ms Pritzker is a member of the wealthy Pritzker family which is based in Chicago. Her grandfather, Nicholas Pritzker, was a Jewish émigré from the Ukraine who arrived in the US in the late 19th century.

The family is now one of the wealthiest in the US. Her father Donald co-founded the Hyatt Hotel group. Ms Pritzker is worth an estimated $2.1bn and ten other members of the family also have billion dollar fortunes.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

UK's top immigration expert says migrants better educated than UK youth

The UK's top immigration expert Sir David Metcalf has told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee that UK employers are deliberately employing foreign-born workers in preference to UK workers to do low-skilled work such as vegetable picking or food retail because foreign-born candidates are likely to work harder, learn faster and be more highly motivated than their English counterparts.

He suggested that the British education system might be partly responsible for the fact that employers prefer foreign-educated workers because foreign workers seem to be better prepared for the workplace than UK-educated workers.

He said he thought that this might be because of a failure of English schools to properly motivate, challenge and educate their pupils.



British workers 'outcompeted'

Sir David is the chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, a committee which advises the British government about migration related issues. The Committee is currently working on a review of the employment of low-skilled labour in the UK. It will be published next year. One of the issues the report will address is why British workers are being 'outcompeted' by migrants.

On Tuesday 10th December 2013, Sir David appeared before the Home Affairs Committee. One of the people asking questions was Lorraine Fullbrook MP, the Conservative MP for South Ribble, an agricultural constituency in Lancashire.

Ms Fullbrook asked Sir David 'are you saying that employers for low-skilled jobs are actively employing migrant workers who are better educated?'



Migrants 'more highly qualified'

Sir David said that, in some cases they did. He continued 'Oftentimes they [the migrants] are more highly qualified than the job but they will be in this job while they are feeling their way, particularly if their English is not very good. In some senses, from an employer's point of view, it is quite understandable'.

Sir David said that there were other factors too. He said that British workers often did not apply for low-paid jobs. He said that this was 'partly because of the benefits system because if you come off benefits it is tricky then to get back on'. This meant that British workers would not take seasonal or part-time work.

When asked by Ms Fullbrook 'is the benefits system the reason why British-born people do not go for these types of jobs?' Sir David replied that this was only one reason amongst many. He said that 'the whole system of education, training, motivation and so on' that was to blame.



English schools failing to challenge students

Sir David suggested that English schools were failing to challenge students and therefore were not producing motivated, driven young adults. He said 'you don't challenge the people at the top and you don't give the resources to the people at the bottom'.

Sir David added that UK workers also did not seem to relish the prospect of hard physical labour such as fruit picking on British farms. He said 'For quite understandable reasons, they do not necessarily like living on the farms and the rural transport won't be quite what they wish it to be'.

Sir David said that planned changes to the UK benefit system are unlikely to make it more likely that UK workers will apply for low-paid jobs. The UK's Coalition government has announced plans to introduce a 'universal credit' in 2015. The intention is to ensure that people are always better off in work than on benefits.



Universal credit system 'is not going to be a panacea'

'I am afraid that the universal credit is not going to be a panacea for that. One was hoping that it would be but it is not going to be' the Professor said.

Recent research from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, the UK's oldest independent policy research institute, suggests that companies which employ foreign workers do better because foreign workers are, on the whole, better-educated and work harder than their British counterparts.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Canadian immigration minister promises better service in 2014

Canada's immigration minister Chris Alexander has promised to improve the service that his department, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) provides for those seeking to migrate to Canada.

Mr Alexander became immigration minister in August 2013, replacing Jason Kenney who had been in the post since 2008. Mr Kenney introduced a series of major changes to the Canadian immigration system, re-focusing the system to favour skilled based and employment based immigrants over family stream applicants

Mr Kenney was immigration minister during a period of great change to the Canadian immigration system. There were major changes to the permanent residence visa programme for skilled migrants; the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP).



Federal Skilled Trades Program

To make immigration for tradespeople easier the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) for tradespeople was introduced. He also introduced the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) visa; a visa stream which allows skilled workers who have worked in Canada for a year to apply for permanent residence visas.

Mr Alexander paid tribute to his energetic predecessor in an interview with Postmedia News, a Canadian news agency. 'It's a pleasure to step into [Kenney's] shoes because there's a record of achievement here' he said.

Mr Alexander has made it clear that, in 2014 at least, he intends to focus on ensuring that the changes introduced by his predecessor work and on improving the service given to potential immigrants to Canada. His chief focus will be on decreasing waiting times.



Parents and grandparents

He has announced that he will reopen a visa stream for parents and grandparents of Canadian permanent residents and citizens, allowing 5,000 people to apply for visas to visit their children in Canada.

He will also concentrate on preparing CIC for the introduction of an 'Expression of Interest' (EOI) system for skilled workers which is due to take place on 1st January 2015.
Mr Alexander gave a series of interviews at the end of December 2013 outlining his ambitions for 2014. He told Postmedia that he wants the waiting time for an applicant for a Canadian permanent resident visa under the FSWP to be reduced to about six months.



55,000 FSWP visas per year

The FSWP is Canada's main skilled immigration visa programme. Around 55,000 people are issued with permanent resident visas under the FSWP each year. The current waiting time for an FSWP application to be resolved is approximately 12 months.

This is a considerable improvement on the situation before mid-2012 when some people had waited over eight years for their FSWP applications to be determined.

In 2012, Mr Kenney took drastic action and terminated all FSWP applications made before February 28th 2008. This was a controversial move. Nearly 250,000 applications were terminated and some of those affected launched a legal challenge in Canada's Federal Court. It was defeated.



EOI system in January 2015

Since then, good progress has been made in cutting the remaining backlog and Mr Alexander has said that CIC is on course to introduce the EOI system on time on 1st January 2015.

Australia already operates an EOI system known as SkillSelect. Under this system, those hoping to emigrate to Australia as a skilled worker first submit an EOI to Australian immigration. This EOI contains information about the candidate; You do not need to send documentation with this application.

Australian employers can then browse through a list of Expressions of Interest and select candidates that they would like to employ. Australian immigration will then invite the candidate to make a formal application for a permanent resident visa. This application must be accompanied by evidence that all the claims made in the EOI about the candidate's education, health, training etc are correct.



Similar to Australia's SkillSelect

The Canadian system is expected to be similar to SkillSelect except that employers will not be able to browse through the applications of appropriately qualified candidates. Instead, Canadian employers will approach CIC and CIC who will then send the details of candidates that it selects as being suitable.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has criticised this proposal and have called on CIC to introduce a system similar to that in Australia which would allow Canadian firms to browse a list of suitable candidates.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

UK Cabinet split on EU immigration

A senior Conservative cabinet minister has been 'rebuked' by the UK's Prime Minister David Cameron for saying that he did not accept 'that the European Union is responsible for unacceptable waves of migration' and adding that immigration had made the UK 'far more exciting and healthier'.

Kenneth Clarke, a veteran Conservative politician who served in Mrs Thatcher's cabinet in the 1980s, told The Financial Times that immigrants from the EU had made 'a positive contribution to our economy'.

Mr Clarke is a noted 'europhile'. This is increasingly rare in a Conservative politician as the party has, in recent years, become increasingly 'eurosceptic'.



Major parties vie to be tough on immigration

Also, over the last five years in particular, encouraged by anti-immigration views in the polls, politicians of all three major parties; The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have tried to outdo each other to be seen to be 'tougher' on immigration.

This has caused considerable disquiet among some rank and file party members, particularly in the Liberal Democratic Party which has traditionally been more 'pro-immigration'.

Mr Clarke told the Financial Times that it would be impossible for the single European market to work unless workers were allowed to move freely throughout the EU. He attacked those who are calling on the government to do more to stop EU migrants from coming to the UK as 'escapists'.



'Right wing nationalist escapism' – Clarke

'The idea that you can have some fundamental debate that somehow stops all these foreigners coming here is rather typical right wing, nationalist escapism, I think', he said.

But the Prime Minister's official spokesman told journalists 'Immigration in the decade up to 2010 was allowed to be out of control. The Prime Minister has been very clear about that. It was too high'.

The spokesman said that much of this immigration had come from within the EU after the former Labour government failed to introduce controls on the free movement of Poles and other eastern Europeans when eight eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004.

The Labour government at the time predicted that 13,000 people would come each year from the new member states to the UK. In fact, more than 1.5m are thought to have come in the first year and a half.



Conservatives increasingly Eurosceptic

Mr Clarke's pro-EU stance has become increasingly unusual in a Conservative MP in recent years as younger Conservative MPs are increasingly anti-European. Many would be in favour of the UK leaving the EU if it cannot renegotiate the terms of its membership.

Mr Cameron faces pressure to oppose EU immigration not only from within his own party but also from the UK Independence Party (UKIP); a right-wing party that opposes immigration and the UK's membership of the EU.

Polls show that UKIP may come second behind Labour in the European elections to be held later this year. The government is therefore introducing policies that will 'crack down' on abuse of the benefits system by EU migrants (although the evidence suggests that EU migrants pay more tax and receive less in benefits than UK citizens).



Europhilia cost Clarke Tory leadership

Mr Clarke is one of very few notable Conservative politicians of the last thirty years who has been publicly supportive of the UK's involvement in the EU. Indeed, his 'europhile' tendencies are said to have cost him the chance to lead the Conservatives.

He stood for leadership on three occasions; in 1997, 2001 and 2005 and on each occasion right-wing, Eurosceptic MPs voted tactically to defeat him.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Australian senator calls for 35m population through immigration

Sam Dastyari, an Australian Labor Party senator from New South Wales, has written an article in Australian newspaper The Australian calling for a 'big Australia'. Mr Dastyari says 'I believe in a big Australia. We need the best and the brightest to come to Australia.

Mr Dastyari was born in 1983 in Iran to an Iranian mother and a father who was from Azerbaijan. His parents took him to Australia when he was five. He joined the Labor Party at 16. He was appointed to the Senate, the upper house of the Australian parliament, in August 2013.

At 30 years of age, he is one of the youngest members of the senate. He said 'A population of 35m by 2050 should not be feared, it should be embraced. This is not an easy issue for Labor or for the (ruling) Coaliition, but we must embrace immigration as a big idea for Australia's future'.



Population up by 6m in 20 years

Australia's population currently stands at about 23m. It has grown by over 6m in the 20 years since 1993. Immigration became an election issue at the general election in September 2013 with both parties promising to prevent abuse of the immigration system.

There were two Labor prime ministers in 2013; Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Mr Rudd ousted Ms Gillard just over a month before the election hoping that he would turn round Labor's poor polling figures. Both Gillard and Rudd promised to crack down on abuse of the 457 temporary work visa promising 'Aussie jobs for Aussie workers'.

Their challenger, the leader of the opposition Coalition, Tony Abbott, backed 457 visas but promised to prevent migrants from all over Asia travelling from Indonesia by boat to Australian territory where they would then claim asylum.



Australian Labor reforming in opposition

The Coalition won the election and Mr Abbott is now the Australian premier. The Australian Labor Party has begun a period of reform, hoping to recover power at the next election in 2016.

But Senator Dastyari said that there must be a 'transformative shift' in the nation's approach to immigration. He said '"Increasing our population through immigration is a sensible economic decision that allows us to maintain our standard of living and care for our ageing population'.

Some Australian politicians have claimed that Australia is 'full' but Senator Dastyari said that such claims were 'patently ridiculous'. He said 'Only Namibia and Mongolia have a lower population density than Australia'.



We should be pro-immigration – Bill Shorten

Senator Dastyari's article echoes a call from the new party leader Bill Shorten for increased immigration. In October 2013, Mr Shorten said 'we should certainly, as a party, be pro-immigration and pro increasing it making sure that people go to wherever it is sustainable for infrastructure and support'.

Mr Dastyari said 'The path to a big Australia involves a considerable political shift. It means confidently embracing immigration and moving away from the currently accepted notion that the Australian public won't support or accept an increase in migration levels. As we head into a non-election year, we have a window of opportunity to have a real debate about our immigration numbers'.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Canada needs speedy EOI skilled immigration system says report

A report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce warns that Canada risks losing out on the brightest immigrants if it does not increase the speed of its 'Expression of Interest' (EOI) immigration system which is due to be introduced in 2015.

Former Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney announced in 2012 that Canada would work towards the introduction of an EOI system once a backlog of applications for permanent residence by skilled immigrants had been eliminated.

Mr Kenney said that the new system would be more responsive and eliminate lengthy backlogs in future. Mr Kenney's successor Chris Alexander has said that he believes that the new EOI system will enable Canada to process applications from suitably skilled migrants in about six months but the Chamber of Commerce report says that this is still too long.



Australia processes EOIs in 58 days

The report states that Australia can process its EOIs and issue visas in 58 days (under two months).

The report states that 'the speed of the system is the single most important factor in determining whether employers will participate in the EOI system'.

It continues 'The government has signalled that the EOI system will process applications within approximately six months from Invitation to Apply to Arrival in Canada. That is too long'.

The Canadian EOI system is expected to be a kind of 'dating service' that puts suitable candidates in touch with businesses that might want to employ them. Those wanting to emigrate to Canada will submit an EOI giving their basic details. They will be assessed against a points grid. Government will choose candidatesCanadian businesses will then tell the Canadian federal government if they need a worker skilled in a certain occupation. The government will then present the business with the details of suitable candidates. If a business selects a certain candidate, that candidate will then be invited to apply for a permanent resident visa.

Providing he or she can prove that all the information originally provided is correct and meets all other Canadian immigration criteria (clean criminal record, in good health), a permanent resident visa will be issued.

Mr Kenney decided to move towards an EOI system because of a crisis in Canada's skilled immigration system. By 2012, Canada's primary skilled immigration programme, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, had developed a massive backlog. People were waiting for as much as eight years to have their applications processed.



Backlog should be cleared by 2015

Mr Kenney, as immigration minister, took drastic action and terminated all applications made before March 2008. Since then, the backlog has been reduced steadily and should be eradicated by the end of 2014.

But Mr Hjartarson warns that the Canadian EOI system will still be too slow. He says that Australia allows potential employers of workers who have submitted an EOI to browse lists of suitable candidates. This, he says, makes the Australian system quicker and more responsive.

The Toronto Star reports that Mr Hjartarson also believes that this will make the Canadian system less useful for employers. Mr Hjartarson says it would be better for employers if they could browse a list of possible candidate. They could then pay attention to personal attributes of candidates besides their qualifications for the job.



Businesses need to assess all candidates' qualities

Mr Hjartarson says that employers would be able to consider non-academic qualities such as 'critical thinking, teamwork and analytical skills' when selecting their preferred candidate.

The Star reports that 30% of Ontario businesses had difficulty in filling a job vacancy in the last 18 months because no one suitably qualified was available.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

US Representative Issa says immigration reform is unlikely in 2014

A member of the lower house of the US Congress, the House of Representatives, Darrell Issa, has told journalists that he does not think that immigration reform will pass in the US in 2014 because there is too much 'animosity' between Republicans in Congress and President Obama and the Democrats.

Representative Issa told TechCrunch magazine 'Comprehensive immigration reform is hard to do with the best environment between the executive branch (the President) between the House and Senate. We don't have the best opportunity'.

Mr Issa said that the major point of difference between the two parties is the question of what should be done about the 11.5m people thought to be residing illegally in the US.



Pathway to citizenship

The President and most Democrats favour a 'pathway to citizenship' which would allow those illegal residents who have no criminal record to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. RPI status will last for six years and can be renewed.

After this, providing they learn to speak English (if necessary) and paid their back taxes, after several years, probably about thirteen years, they would be able to apply for permanent residents and, thereafter, for citizenship. Many Republicans, on the other hand, believe that illegal residents should be encouraged to leave the country by making their lives as uncomfortable as possible. This policy is known as self-deportation.

It is believed by many Republican strategists that Republican candidate Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election because he promised to introduce self-deportation policies if elected.



80% of illegal residents are Hispanic

Republican strategists believe that this was a major factor in persuading over 70% of Hispanic voters in the US to vote for President Obama, thereby winning him the election. About 80% of illegal residents are from Mexico and Latin America.

Mr Issa told TechCrunch 'if we can find a compromise that is bi-partisan on the 11 million [illegal residents], I think we begin to defuse some of the animosity. It doesn't mean we get a bill passed for the next election'.

Darrell Issa is a Republican Representative for California's 49th congressional district which lies in the affluent suburbs just north of Los Angeles. He is known to have an interest in immigration.



STEM Jobs Act

In 2013 he introduced the STEM Jobs Act which would have seen the 55,000 permanent residence visas currently distributed under the Green Card Lottery being reallocated to foreign born graduates of US universities with degrees in one of the STEM subjects; science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In October 2013, he announced he would introduce another immigration bill which would be an alternative to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013 which is supported by President Obama which has already been passed by the upper house of Congress, The Senate. The Border Security Act would create a pathway to citizenship.

Representative Issa said that his bill would be a halfway' bill which would be a compromise between those who want an amnesty and those that don't.



Issa bill would introduce 6 year visas for illegal residents

He has said that his bill would allow illegal residents to apply for a visa which would allow them to stay in the US for only six years. This would, he said, allow those who applied enough time in the US to find a legal way of applying for permanent resident status.

He has not yet revealed the details of his draft bill. Even so, it is already unpopular with supporters of the creation of a pathway. In November, a group of pro-reform activists staged a one-day sit-in hunger strike outside Mr Issa's office in Vista, California.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

EU vice president accuses UK PM of fuelling immigration fears

Viviane Reding, the vice president of the European Union, has accused the UK's Prime Minister David Cameron of risking the future of the British people by using populist, anti-EU rhetoric to try to win votes.

During a 'web chat' streamed from Brussels on Thursday 9th January 2014, Ms Reding said that the Prime Minister is misleading the UK public by claiming that Britain is under siege from an army of European immigrants who will steal British jobs and/or live off British benefits. She said that the figures show that the UK has benefited from EU immigration.

Mr Cameron's government introduced emergency legislation at the end of December to prevent EU citizens from claiming benefits until they had been in the UK for three months. The legislation would also bar those who cannot speak English from claiming benefits.



Child benefit

On 20th December 2013, Mr Cameron provoked a public rebuke from former Polish President Lech Walesa by suggesting that he would act to prevent EU citizens who work in the UK from claiming child benefit for children living in their home countries.

Under the current rules, workers from other EU countries who live in the UK are entitled to claim UK child benefit even if their children continue to reside outside the UK. Claimants are paid £20.30 per child per week for their first child and £13.40 for subsequent children.

UK newspaper The Daily Mail reports that UK child benefit is currently paid for 25,659 children living in Poland. Child benefit is also paid for more than 1,000 children in Ireland, Lithuania, Slovakia, France, Latvia and Spain.




Mr Cameron told Andrew Marr on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on 5th January 2014, 'it's wrong that someone from Poland who comes here, who works hard - and I am absolutely all in favour of that - but I don't think we should be paying child benefit to their family back at home in Poland'.

Many Polish politicians weighed into the debate. One, Jan Bury, a former treasury minister, is a member of the Tusk party which is the junior partner in the governing coalition. He told Poles 'As Poles, we can also say 'no' to Prime Minister Cameron and his policies. We call on Poles to boycott British retailer Tesco'.

Ms Reding said that the UK government was spreading fear about EU nationals coming to the UK to take jobs or to claim benefits, and said that these fears were 'myths'.



Invasion of foreigners is 'not true'

She said 'This supposed invasion of foreigners coming to the UK and stealing the jobs and stealing the social security and the health money. The fact and figures, and we all know this, show it is simply not true'.

In an astonishingly direct attack on the UK government she asked 'What is leadership if you just try with populistic movements and populistic speech to gain votes? You are destroying the future of your people'. She called on 'reasonable forces' in the UK to explain the true position and dispel the myths which 'have nothing to do with reality'. She said that, in fact, the UK has benefited from EU immigration.

She said 'British industry has made it very clear, putting the figures on the table and showing that the GDP of Britain rose by 3-4% because of the input of these working Europeans who come to Great Britain'.



United States of Europe

Ms Reding gave a speech on Tuesday 7th January in which she called for the establishment of 'a United States of Europe'. This phrase has a special resonance in the UK, as Ms Reding must have known. Eurosceptics claim, with some justification, that the UK signed up for a 'common market' and is now being railroaded into a 'United States of Europe'.

The UK has long been the most Eurosceptic country in the EU. A recent poll by YouGov-Cambridge found that 20% of Britons want to leave the EU and a further 40% want looser links with the Union. Only 14% of those surveyed in the UK want closer integration with the Union.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

UK government announces 'strict' benefits test for EU migrants

The UK's Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has announced a new benefits test which is designed to discourage jobless migrants from within the EU from coming to the UK to claim benefits.

The new test will require EU immigrants to provide details of their English ability and explain what steps they have taken to find work.

He said that the new test would be legal under EU law and would prevent EU migrants, particularly from Bulgaria and Romania, from coming to the UK to claim benefits. There are fears that the UK's comparatively generous benefits system works as a 'pull factor' attracting immigrants from poorer countries in eastern Europe.



Beggars will be deported and barred

The UK immigration authorities will also be able to deport EU migrants who have been found begging and bar them from re-entering the country for 12 months.

Mr Duncan Smith also told ITN News that, from January 1st 2014, EU immigrants to the UK will be barred from claiming benefits for three months after arriving in the country. This will mean that the new rules are in place when the restrictions on citizens of Romania and Bulgaria working in the UK are removed.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. The UK, in common with most other countries in western Europe, introduced 'transitional controls' making it difficult for most citizens of the two countries from coming to live or work for seven years.




People from the two countries are allowed to come to the UK to work in a self-employed capacity or as a seasonal agricultural worker. They can also come under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (closed to others) or come under the usual UK immigration rules.

The UK government had failed to introduce similar controls in 2004 when eight eastern European countries had joined the EU. The then Labour government had predicted that 13,000 people would come to the UK to live and work each year over the next few years.

In the event, it is thought that over one million people from Poland alone came within the first 18 months. The UK's Polish population is still thought to be over 1m.



Conservatives calling for extension of controls

Some 80 MPs from the right-wing Conservative Party (which is governing in coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrat Party) have called on the government to extend the transitional controls for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens for a further four or five years.

David Ruffley MP told The Guardian newspaper 'It's not enough to choke off any abuse of benefits because many want to come here to work. The minimum wage in Romania is £1 [per hour] and, for perfectly rational economic reasons, they want to come here to work for £6 an hour'.

The UK's Coalition government has rejected these calls saying that to do so would be illegal because the maximum length of the controls according to EU law is seven years.



Extension 'could be challenged in courts'

Mark Harper the Immigration Minister, told the Home Affairs Committee that the government's legal advisors had warned that any extension of the transitional controls could be successfully challenged by the European Commission.

So Mr Duncan Smith has put the new benefits test in place in time for the end of the controls on 31st December 2013.

He said that he wanted, in time, to change the law so that migrants would remain the responsibility of their home country until they had begun to work in a new country and begun to pay taxes there.



No benefits until you've paid taxes

He told ITN 'we want to tighten it up so you remain the responsibility of your home nation until you've demonstrated in due course that you're resident, you're earning, you've been paying taxes and therefore you become eligible for benefits'.

Mr Duncan Smith said that he had been conducting research for the last two years to ensure that the new regime would be legal but also stated that he intended to go much further in future.

He said that he had been talking to a group of western European nations who had similar concerns to the UK about mass migration. He said that he hopes, in future, to be able to introduce tougher measures to discourage abuse of the UK's benefits system.



First of a series of measures to ensure a fair system

He told journalists 'The roll-out of the new habitual residence test is the first in a series of measures to ensure that we have a fair system: one which provides support for genuine workers and jobseekers, but does not allow people to come to our country and take advantage. It is a crucial part of our long-term plan to secure Britain's economy'.

Yvette Cooper, the opposition Labour Party's shadow home secretary, said that the changes had been introduced 'at the last minute' and said that Labour had called for their introduction nine months ago.

Mr Duncan Smith has said that the UK intends to negotiate with other EU countries to change the rules further to prevent 'benefits tourism'.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

UK Immigration Act will introduce health charges for migrants

A health minister in the UK government has announced that the UK is to introduce charges for health care for all migrants. Foreign nationals living in the UK, as well as UK nationals resident abroad and tourists, will be expected to pay for medicines, for some emergency care and for eye and dental treatment.

Lord Howe told the BBC that patients will be able to go to a doctor in general practice and to appointments with a nurse for free. Anyone taken to accident and emergency for genuine emergency treatment, such as those who have had a heart attack, will continue to be treated without having to show eligibility to free healthcare.

Lord Howe said that he expected the changes to save the UK's National Health Service about £500m a year. He said that it was 'A national health service, not an international health service'. Currently, the NHS treats people free if they are deemed to be 'ordinarily resident' in the UK.



People to be charged

This includes people from outside the European Economic Area who
  • Have been living in the UK for at least 12 months when they begin treatment
  • Have permanent resident status, even if they have been in the UK for less than a year
  • Have come to the UK to work, either as an employee or in a self-employed capacity
  • Normally work in the UK but are currently working abroad, for less than five years
  • Have applied for asylum in the UK

The full details of the scheme will be announced in March 2014 but it seems that the following groups of people will be required to pay for most treatment on the NHS
  • Foreign workers in the UK, such as those with Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas
  • Tourists
  • Business visitors
  • UK citizens who live and work abroad (It is not clear if this will apply to all such workers or whether some will be exempt from the requirement to pay)



Varied reactions to proposals

Reactions to the proposals among medical professionals varied. Dr Laurence Buckman, a former chairman of the General Practitioners Committee, told the BBC that GPs were not opposed to charging foreign nationals for treatment but said that doctors needed clarity on who should be charged and when. He added that doctors did not want to act as border guards or tax collectors.

Dr Mark Porter, Chairman of the British Medical Association Council said that the proposals 'could create unintended drawbacks for the NHS and patients.

He continued, 'They are likely to create a complex patchwork of charging and access entitlements where some services remain free, such as GP appointments, while others will be chargeable, including A&E visits and other services provided via many GP practices, such as physiotherapy'.



Wrong to deter people from visiting their doctor

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, leader of the BMA's GP committee, said 'We cannot have a situation where any patient with a serious health need is deterred from visiting a GP, especially if their condition raises a potential public health risk'.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics Bog on the British Medical Journal website, Iain Brassington wrote 'The planned NHS budget for the 2012/13 financial year is £108.897bn, in the context of which, £500m really isn't that much'.



Government accused of 'grandstanding'

The UK's opposition Labour Party has accused the Coalition government of 'grandstanding' meaning that it is attempting to gain headlines for being 'tough on immigration' without addressing any underlying issues.

Labour shadow health minister Lord Hunt said 'Labour is in favour of improving the recovery of costs from people with no entitlement to NHS treatment…Rather than more grand-standing, the government needs to deliver practical, thought-through changes to make that happen'.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Australian immigration minister says refugees will suffer after defeat in Senate

The Australian government was recently defeated in its attempt to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs).

These visas were used by the last Conservative government of Australia before 2007 to confer to asylum seekers the right to reside in Australia for three years; The government would then reassess the circumstances of the applicant to see if he or she was still at risk. Only if he or she was still deemed to be at risk in his or her homeland would the visa be renewed beyond the initial three year period.

The visas were abolished by the last Labor government of Australia but, during the last general election campaign in September 2013, the opposition Coalition promised to reintroduce TPVs if re-elected. The Coalition won the election; using his executive powers, the newly appointed immigration minister Scott Morrison took steps to reintroduce TPVs.



Government defeated in Senate

But the Australian parliament's upper house, the Senate, passed a motion disallowing their reintroduction on 2nd December 2013.

Having been defeated in the Senate, Mr Morrison has said that he will not issue any more permanent protection visas to any of the 33,000 asylum seekers waiting in Australia.

Permanent Protection Visas (PPVs) grant permanent residence to asylum seekers, as their name suggests. Mr Morrison says he will not allow any more PPVs to be issued. This will mean that the 33,000 people waiting for their asylum applications to be decided will have to remain in Australia on 'bridging visas'.



Asylum seekers with bridging visas cannot work

Bridging visas allow foreign nationals to remain lawfully in Australia without a 'substantive visa' while their applications to remain are decided. Asylum seekers who arrived in Australia after 13 August 2012 and have been issued with bridging visas (Bridging Visa E) are not allowed to work or to leave Australia pending the determination of their applications.

Mr Morrison placed the blame for his decision firmly on the opposition for voting to ban the reintroduction of TPVs. He said that the asylum seekers were suffering 'because of the actions of Labor and the Greens' (in voting to prevent the reintroduction of TPVs.

Mr Morrison said that the government remained absolutely committed to the reintroduction of TPVs. This was a manifesto commitment of the Coalition during the Australian general election in September.



Government 'acting like thugs'

The deputy leader of the Greens in the Australian parliament said 'we've got a prime minister (Tony Abbott) and an immigration minister (Morrison) who are acting like thugs'.

He added 'what a way to treat some of the world's most vulnerable people who have come here seeking help; to say that we are going to keep you in permanent limbo and to say to some of them 'we're not even going to process your claims'.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in Australia. Please visit our Australian page for more information:

Monday, January 13, 2014

UK's plan to cut immigration could damage economy says think tank

A report by a UK think tank suggests that if the UK's Coalition government is successful in reducing immigration to below 100,000 a year this could lead to reduced growth in the economy of 11% by 2060. This would, the report says, result in lower incomes and higher taxes for UK residents.

The research has been carried out by the Institute of Economic and Social Research, which calls itself 'Britain's longest established independent research institute' (it was founded in 1938).

David Cameron, the UK's Prime Minister, promised, during a television interview in 2010, before he became prime minister, to cut net UK immigration from the then level of around 250,000 per year to 'tens of thousands a year'. This has always been taken to mean below 100,000.



Majority in UK support skilled migration

Public opinion in the UK is broadly opposed to mass immigration, though a significant majority are in favour of skilled migration. Most people are also in favour of more foreign students coming to study in the UK. All major parties now say they would cut net immigration if elected.

But the IESR research suggests that anti-immigration policies would damage the economy. The report ran economic projections comparing economic growth until 2060 with different levels of migration.

The main findings were
  • The economy would be 11% smaller by 2060 if net annual immigration is 100,000 per annum instead of 200,000 per annum
  • GDP per head would be 2.7% lower by 2060
  • The government would need to increase the average income tax rate by 2.2% by 2060 under the lower immigration rate
  • Average household income would decline for lower paid families with wages 3.3% lower by 2060.



Reduction on net immigration will have 'strong negative effect'

The report's authors say 'we find that the significant reduction in net migration has strong negative effects on the economy. By 2060 in the low migration scenario aggregate GDP decreases by 11% and GDP per person by 2.7% compared to the baseline scenario. Second, this policy has a significant negative impact on the public finances, owing to the shift in the demographic structure after the shock'.

The paper is limited to consideration of the economic impacts of different levels of immigration. The authors say 'these simulations necessarily do not take into account the potential social impacts of higher immigration. This is a hotly debated area, which is beyond the scope of our study'.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

UK's top immigration advisor questions value of Tier 1 Investor visa

Sir David Metcalfe, the head of the UK's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) gave evidence to the House of Commons' Home Affairs Committee last week. He told the Committee that no one he asked knew why the UK's Tier 1 (Investor) visa had been established.

Sir David has been asked by the government to review the Tier 1 (Investor) visa stream. He was summoned to give evidence to the Committee on 10th December 2013 and was asked by Liberal Democrat MP Dr Julian Huppert to explain his findings about the Investor visa.

Sir David said 'nobody can tell us why we have the investors route'. He continued 'interestingly, when you talk to a lot of the stakeholders, they think it is self-evidently a good thing. It is not self-evidently a good thing. It may be a good thing, but it is not self-evidently a good thing'.



Why do we have this visa?

Sir David said 'What we have done is to quiz people about why they think we have this [investor visa]. Of course, you have to remember it is posting a bond. It is not a gift. Most of the people buy gilts, so they are buying gilts. Sometimes they borrow the money and then they keep the gilts for five years.

'They get their indefinite leave to remain, and then they sell them. We do not need their money. We are selling £300 million of gilts every day to fund the deficit, so we do not need their money for that. Therefore, you start asking what is the purpose of this route'.

Answering his own question, Sir David postulated that the real intention was that these wealthy people might, while in the UK, engage in entrepreneurial activity.



Only 10 - 20% are entrepreneurs

He said 'If there are 500 investors in the last figures, say that 50 or 100 of those really do do proper entrepreneurial activity; that, I think, is where the benefit for Britain is.

Sir David said that the UK should 'think a little bit more creatively instead of just [requiring investors to] buy gilts'. He said that Malta was already considering selling citizenship. He said that it might be that the UK should do the same.

He said 'There surely are better ways that we can get people investing in Britain; I repeat it is only a loan, it is not a gift-including in venture capital or so-called angel investment funds. We have talked to the GLC about-I won't call it a Boris bond, but an infrastructure bond, for example. In our report we will be setting out some plausible alternatives. Two of my LSE colleagues suggested that maybe we should…do some auctioning'.



UK 'selling' visas cheaply

Sir David went on to say that the UK was currently 'selling' visas rather cheaply. He said that the UK should not rule out selling citizenship and said that, if it did, maybe it 'should be letting people in if they endow Cambridge, LSE, with £10 million'.

Sir David said that the MAC report on the subject would be coming out in February 2014.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Zealand immigration establishes Entrepreneur Work Visa

The New Zealand immigration minister Michael Woodhouse has announced that his department is to scrap the Long-Term Business Visa and introduce a new visa, the Entrepreneur Work Visa, to replace it. The new visa will assess applicants using a points-based test and require them to invest NZ$100,000.

Mr Woodhouse says that he hopes that the new scheme will 'encourage business-savvy migrants to invest, settle and create jobs across the country'. He said that he was scrapping the Long-Term Business Visa because it had 'attracted a large number of low-quality applications'.

Mr Woodhouse announced that eligibility for the new Entrepreneur Work Visa would be calculated by assessing applicants against a points-based system which he said would 'result in higher quality, more productive businesses'.



NZ wants to attract entrepreneurs

Immigration New Zealand released a statement saying that it was seeking to encourage businesses that would be more beneficial to the New Zealand economy. It says that it particularly wants to attract entrepreneurs who will establish businesses that 'bring in new technology; employ New Zealanders; support effective domestic competition; and [have] good growth prospects'.

Immigration New Zealand added that 'ideally, the business would also create exportable products and services that do not already exist in our market'. It is hoped that the points-based test will enable Immigration New Zealand to better select candidates who will create businesses that benefit the New Zealand economy the most.

Mr Woodhouse announced that applicants will be awarded more points if their plan involves settling outside the populous Auckland region. Auckland is New Zealand's largest city, located towards the north of North Island. It has a population of about 1,500,000 out of a total national population a little over 4m.



Financial requirements may be waived

Applicants under the new visa scheme will not only have to score adequate points, they will also have to commit at least NZ$100,000 (US$82,500, £50,400) to their businesses. Immigration New Zealand says that it may waive this requirement in circumstances where such an investment is not necessary.
It says that applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis where 'a business model [does] not require such an investment (ie a web-based IT start-up)'.

The Long-Term Business Visa stream was for business people to stay and set up businesses in New Zealand. Applicants under this scheme were also required to submit a business plan. This was assessed and successful applicants were then granted an initial nine month visa to allow them to establish themselves in New Zealand.



New visa to be introduced in March 2014

Providing that the plan remained on course, applicants were allowed to extend their visas' duration to four years. Thereafter they could apply for permanent residence.

The Long-Term Business Visa stream will close on 20th December. The new Entrepreneur Visa will open in March 2014.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

UK immigration accused of disrupting concerts

Music promoters have complained that UK immigration is making it harder for international musicians to get visas to work in the UK. They say that the UK's Home Office has refused to issue visas on several occasions to internationally renowned artistes.

This has resulted in the cancellation of concerts. They say that this may well damage London's reputation as a venue for world music concerts.

The New Musical Express, one of the UK's leading music magazines, reports that two Asian groups have had to cancel London concerts because one or more members have been refused leave to enter the UK.



Pakistani jazzman refused entry to UK

In late November 2013, the Pakistani Sachal Jazz Ensemble had to cancel two concerts in the Kings Place venue in King's Cross, London after one of their number was refused entry to the UK. The group played in New York with no problems only a week earlier.

Sachal Jazz are best known for their reworking of Dave Brubeck's jazz classic Take-Five. When Mr Brubeck heard Sachal's version of his most famous work shortly before his death in 2012, he said that it was 'the most interesting and different recording of Take-Five that I have ever heard'.

Music promoter Jay Vivsadeva, who was behind the London visit said 'We are finding it very difficult to obtain visas. Six professional musicians who travel the world constantly should have a clean application. We had no issue with [UK] visas last year. The Border Agency are the culprits. They are heavy-handed, especially with people from the subcontinent'.



Al Kindi barred

In October, the Ensemble Al-Kindi, a Turkish-Syrian group which plays traditional Syrian music was refused entry to the UK because the Home Office refused entry to five of the group. They had been due to play at a concert at the RichMix centre in Shoreditch, East London to celebrate their 30th anniversary in the music business.

Ensemble Al-Kindi's manager, Sabine Chatel, told The Evening Standard, a London newspaper, that she had been told the visas were refused because the Home Office believed that the musicians might not leave the UK if allowed to enter.

Ms Chatel said that Al-Kindi had been granted Schengen visas which allow them to travel throughout the European Union.




Oliver Carruthers of RichMix said 'We know how disappointed everyone will be, especially those who have already bought tickets. It would have been a very exciting show for London which is usually known to be an open, welcoming city for artists.

'What's sad is that their music is part of a long tradition of peaceful exploration of the relationship between people and spirituality - a tradition that is increasingly under threat in Syria.

The Standard reports that Simon Broughton, the editor of Songlines, a magazine dedicated to world music, believes that the problem is getting worse and is threatening the world music scene in the UK.



Great musicians are not getting into the country

Mr Broughton said 'I don't know whether something has changed at the Border Agency but it has become a problem recently. Great musicians who are very well known in their own fields are not getting into the country where there is an audience for them.

'Much of the music is a fantastic way of correcting the image of Islam as sombre and strict but the musicians can't get into the country. It doesn't help the understanding of these cultures.



Entertainer visa

Musicians from outside the EU can perform in the UK with an Entertainer Visitor visa, providing that they are not paid while in the UK. If you are being paid, you can apply for a Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) temporary work visa.

A Home Office spokesman told the Standard 'All visa applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with immigration rules'.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Australian immigration minister fails to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas

The Australian government has been defeated in the upper house of the Australian parliament in a vote on the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). The Coalition which now governs Australia promised to reintroduce TPVs if elected at the last election.

TPVs are temporary visas, lasting three years, which were granted to asylum seekers under the Conservative government of John Howard. After three years, the circumstances of the holder of a TPV were reassessed to see if the TPV holder would still be in danger in his or her home country. If the danger was passed, the visa would not be renewed. TPVs were abolished by the Australian Labor government which took power in 2007.

Immigration minister Scott Morrison introduced legislation to reintroduce TPVs shortly after the Coalition's victory in the general election in September 2013. The Coalition won a healthy majority in the lower house of the Australian parliament, The House of Representatives, but failed to win an outright majority in the upper house, the Senate.



'TPVs 'punish the most vulnerable'

This allowed a coalition of Green and Labor senators to defeat the government. Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young described TPVs as 'cruel'. She said 'All they did was punish the most vulnerable, the most genuine, the most deserving refugees simply for having dared seek protection for their families'.

She added 'Refugees on TPVs often refer to living in fear of being returned home back to the dangers they fled in the first place'.

An opposition motion to prevent the reintroduction of TPVs was passed by 36 votes to 26.



TPVs 'not necessary'

During the debate, one Labor Senator, Kim Carr, said that the TPV was no longer necessary because all refugees arriving in Australian territory by sea are now sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru for processing not in Australia.

This change to the law was introduced by the previous Labor government in July 2013. The then

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that 'arriving in Australia by boat will no longer mean settlement in Australia'.

Mr Rudd claimed that the motivation for the change was to protect asylum seekers, a number of whom have died while trying to get to Australia. He said 'Australians have had enough of seeing people drowning in the waters to our north. Our country has had enough of people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas'.



Rudd tried to look tough on immigration

But some commentators claimed that the policy was actually an attempt by Mr Rudd to look 'tough' on immigration to win votes from voters hostile to immigration. Mr Rudd lost the election and has since resigned from parliament.

After the defeat, Mr Morrison criticised the Labor Party for blocking TPVs. He said 'The government will be making further announcements on this in the times ahead. But right now, what's clear is that the Labor Party has repeated one of its worst mistakes in government.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

UK Visas and Immigration launches 'the GREAT Club'

UK Visas and Immigration has launched a new service for 'global business leaders' called 'The Great Club'. It is 'an invitation only service providing top business executives with bespoke support from UK visas and immigration'.

According to The website of the Home Office, the government department responsible for the UK's immigration and visa services, 'the club will start in the New Year as a 12 month pilot aimed at around 100 global business leaders who use the visa service and have strong links to the UK.

They will be provided with an account manager to ensure their journey through visa and immigration service is swift and smooth'.



'A world-class, competitive visa system'

The UK's Home Secretary Theresa May issued a statement which read 'I created UK visas and Immigration in March to provide a focus on delivering excellent customer service. These changes will allow us to maintain a world-class, competitive visa system that can innovate in order to serve the ever-changing needs of business and ensure that Britain succeeds in the global race'.

Mrs May created the Visa and Immigration Service in March 2013 after closing down the UK Border Agency which had been responsible for the UK's immigration and visa regime since 2008. Mrs May said that the UKBA was 'not good enough'.

She said it had developed a secretive culture because it was an agency with independence from the Home Office. She announced on 25th March 2013 that she would take the functions of the UKBA back into the Home Office.



Visa and immigration Service replaces UKBA

The creation of the Visa and Immigration Service was announced slightly later by the chief secretary to the Home Office Mark Sedwill.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

UK PM admits Government unlikely to meet immigration reduction target

The UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, has told journalists that it is likely that his government will not meet its target of reducing net immigration to the UK to 'tens of thousands' (taken to mean below 100,000) by 2015. Last week, the latest immigration figures showed that, immigration in the year to June 2013 rose by 15,000 to 182,000.

Mr Cameron said that immigration had fallen by about a third from the level it reached under the last Labour government of the UK when official figures suggested that net immigration ran at 250,000 a year.

Net immigration is calculated by finding the number of people who arrive in the country to live permanently over a given period and subtracting the number of people who leave the country over the same period.



Fall in number emigrating from UK

He was speaking to journalists on 2nd December 2013 while on a trade mission to China. He said that it was not impossible that the target would be met but said that a fall in the number of people emigrating from the UK had made it harder to meet the target.

He said 'I made the pledge of trying to get net migration down to the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands, on the basis that actually over the previous period migration flows within Europe have been relatively balancing out when it's been migration from outside Europe that's been topping up the numbers'.

The 'tens of thousands' target seemed to have come about after Mr Cameron was interviewed on the Andrew Marr Programme on BBC1 on Sunday 10th January 2010. He told interviewer Andrew Marr, 'We would like to see net immigration in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands. I don't think that's unrealistic'.



'Tens of thousands target' criticised

The target has been criticised by many business groups because it makes no distinction between different types of immigration. International students, for example, who contribute a great deal of income to the UK's economy, are included in the figure.

UN guidelines state that students should be included as 'permanent migrants' because, for the period of their studies, they are long term visas in the country where they are studying. When they leave, they are included in the emigration statistics.

Therefore by reducing the number of overseas students that are granted Tier 4 student visas, the government can artificially cut the immigration figure.



Meeting target would damage UK economy

Critics of the 'tens of thousands' target argued that the target could not be met without causing significant damage to the UK's economy by preventing international students with Tier 4 visas as well as skilled workers with Tier 2 (General) visas from coming to the UK.

A report from academics at University College London published in November 2013 criticised the target as 'neither a useful tool or a measure of policy effectiveness'. In their report, Professor John Salt and Dr Janet Dobson said that the government had put itself in a difficult position by coming up with the 'tens of thousands target' because it was now bound to pursue it even if it was damaging the country.

They wrote 'having publicised the target, a government is under pressure to prioritize its achievement over other considerations which may be in the national interest or the interests of individual citizens and to act hastily to reach it within the promised time-scale'.



UK should scrap single immigration figure

They also said that the UK would be better advised to follow an immigration policy which was not predicated on a single immigration figure but rather 'one which strikes a balance between minimizing the economic and social costs of migration while maximising the benefits'.

The report recommended 'If governments wish to set targets of non-EEA immigration, they should be based on estimates for different migration streams – labour, student, family and asylum, each perhaps broken down into component parts rather than a single overall figure to be met regardless.' Mr Cameron promised to continue to attempt to reduce the net immigration figure below 100,000.

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