Friday, June 27, 2014

Dragon: Immigration is what makes UK 'brilliant'

Theo Paphitis, a British entrepreneur and television personality, best known for his role on BBC TV show The Dragon's Den, says that immigration is 'a really important part of what makes [the UK] so brilliant'.

Mr Paphitis, who is an immigrant from Cyprus, also said that claims that immigrants take jobs from UK citizens are 'rubbish'. He said 'There is absolutely clear evidence, published many times, that the people that are signing on the dole can't or won't fill those roles so that's not the case.

Mr Paphitis also told online newspaper The Huffington Post that the UK is an excellent place for foreign-born entrepreneurs to do business.



'The UK ticks a huge amount of boxes'

He said 'Why wouldn't they come here? The UK is a huge market and it's very attractive and encourages investment and I'm not sure why someone wouldn't want to come here…, the time zone and the attractiveness of the tax regime? The UK ticks a huge amount of boxes'.

Mr Paphitis is a Greek Cypriot who came to the UK at the age of nine in 1968 with his parents and two brothers. He attended school in London working in retail and insurance before setting up a property finance company at the age of 23.

In 1995, after building a successful mobile phone business, he bought the stationary chain Rymans. It has some 230 branches an is worth £40m. He also owns the Robert Dyas homeware chain and a lingerie retailer. He is said to be worth more than £200m.



Immigration is' an important part of what makes the UK brilliant'

He told Huffington Post, 'the doors were open for me in this country to come here, with my family, and to start my businesses here. Immigration is a really important part of what makes this country so brilliant'.

Mr Paphitis spent seven years on the UK version of The Dragons' Den; a show that allows entrepreneurial businessmen and inventors to pitch their ideas to five 'dragons' or investors.

The investors are successful businessmen who decide whether to invest in the products or ideas that are presented in front of them.




Between 2005 and 2012, on Dragon's Den, Mr Paphitis backed 49 different businesses and invested over £2m.

He is now promoting the UK National Enterprise Challenge which will allow school children from schools across the UK to pitch their business ideas to judges.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

UK minister says meeting immigration target will be 'difficult'

Theresa May, the UK's Home Secretary, has told the BBC that it will be difficult to meet the government's target of reducing annual net immigration to below 100,000 by May 2015 but has said that she will continue to strive to do so.

The target stems from a commitment made by the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, in 2010 when he was the leader of the opposition before the last election. The government has committed itself to reducing net immigration from its then level of about 250,000 to below 100,000 by the next election in May 2015.

The net immigration total is calculated by subtracting the number of migrants leaving the country from the number of migrants arriving in the country. Under the last Labour government net annual immigration rose to about 250,000.



Net UK immigration rising

The government has introduced many changes and managed to reduce net immigration to about 150,000 by September 2013. But since then, the total has started to rise again and the last two sets of figures have estimated net immigration at about 212,000 annually. Now the government has less than a year to cut net immigration by half.

On 25th May, Mrs May told the BBC's Sunday morning political programme The Andrew Marr Show 'We still have that aim of the tens of thousands. But of course it has become more difficult and net migration is too high'.

Mrs May said that immigration from outside the EU had fallen to the level found in the 1990s.



Government will 'do its damnedest'

Later on the same day, on the BBC Sunday lunchtime political programme The Sunday Politics, the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was asked whether the government would meet its target. Mr Pickles said that the government would 'do its damnedest' to do so.

When host Andrew Neil suggested to him that the government had no hope of meeting the target, Mr Pickles said 'I don't know that. I don't know that for a fact'.

The issue has recently hit the headlines again because of the successes of the anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the recent EU parliamentary elections. UKIP gained the greatest number of votes with 27% of the vote and now has 24 of the UK's 73 seats in the EU parliament.



Free movement of labour

UKIP campaigns against the UK's membership of the EU and against mass immigration.

It says that the two issues are linked because all EU citizens have the right to work in the UK due to the principle of free movement of labour which is one of the central tenets of the EU.

UKIP says that, if the UK left the EU, it could 'take control of its borders' and prevent unskilled labour from coming to the UK from Europe. This would allow the UK to welcome the skilled migrants it needs from outside the EU.



Changes to system

Since she became Home Secretary in 2010, Mrs May has introduced numerous changes to the UK immigration system. She has
  • Abolished the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa. This visa enabled foreign graduates of UK universities to stay in the UK and work for two years after graduation. They were allowed to work for any employer (including themselves)
  • Abolished the Tier 1 (General) visa which allowed 'highly skilled people' (mainly graduates) from around the world to come to the UK and work. The government said that many Tier 1 (General) visa holders were working in low paid jobs in the UK. These workers too, could work for any employer
  • Introduced a cap of 20,700 on the Tier 2 (General) visa for skilled workers. However, this cap has never actually been reached.
  • Removed the sponsorship licences from 700 colleges which prevents them from sponsoring foreign students from outside the EU for Tier 4 student visas
  • Prevented UK citizens and permanent residents who earn less than £18,600 a year from bringing foreign born spouses to live in the UK.



No visas for EU citizens

Mrs May says that thanks to the policies of the current Government there have been significant cuts in immigration from outside the EU. The difficulty for her and the Government is that immigration from within the EU has increased. EU citizens do not require visas to work in the UK means that changes to the visa system do not affect them.

The UK releases immigration figures on a quarterly basis. In February, the Office for National Statistics said the net annual immigration figure was 212,000 for the period ending in September 2013.

The latest figures were released on 22nd May, the day of the European elections. On that day, the ONS said that the net annual immigration figure remained unchanged at 212,000 for the period ending in December 2013.



Unchanged headline figure masks change in composition of immigration

While the headline net immigration figure remained unchanged, this disguised significant changes in in the nature of immigration into the UK.

The February figures showed that for the period ending in September 2013 526,000 people arrived in the UK as immigrants; 325,000 from outside the EU and 201,000 from within the EU. 314,000 people emigrated.

The May figures show that for the period ending in December 2013 the number of immigrants from outside the EU fell by 11,000 compared to the February figures. But the number of immigrants from within the EU rose by 43,000.



Tier 4 visas

The net immigration figures announced in May 2014, show that the non-EU figure included 219,000 students who came to the UK with Tier 4 student visas. Students who come to the UK intending to study for more than 12 months are included in the figures as migrants because they will be resident in the UK for more than a year.

This, according to the UN, makes them migrants. The others will include workers, spouses and family members of UK nationals and UK students who return to the UK having spent several years living abroad.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poll: Cantor defeat 'not connected to US immigration reform'

A poll suggests that the defeat of House of Representatives majority leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary election was not, as the press initially reported, caused by his support for immigration reform. The defeat was caused instead by Mr Cantor's personal unpopularity, the poll shows.

Mr Cantor's defeat was greeted with incredulity in Washington. He was a high-flier in the Republican Party and was expected to replace John Boehner as speaker of the House when Mr Boehner retires. Now his political career is over.

The press was quick to suggest that this defeat would mean that there was now no chance that a comprehensive immigration reform bill would be passed by the House of Representatives this year.



Cantor 'a supporter of immigration reform'

Mr Cantor's defeat, commentators suggested, had been caused by his support for immigration reform and now, they said, other Republicans would be scared to publicly support immigration reform this year for fear of being defeated in primary elections themselves.

It is true that Dave Brat, who defeated Mr Cantor, is an opponent of immigration reform. He is a supporter of the Tea Party, a radical, right-wing, grass roots movement which campaigns for small government, low taxes and low immigration. However, this does not necessarily mean that this is why he won the election.

Mr Brat, and The Tea Party in general, are particularly opposed to a bill passed by the Senate in June last year; The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013 (the Border Security Act). For the bill to become law, it must also be passed by the House of Representatives, of which Mr Cantor was a member.



Border Security Act

The Border Security Act would, if it became law;
  • Increase spending on border security by $4.5bn
  • Establish a 'pathway to citizenship' for the most illegal immigrants. It would take over thirteen years for those who apply to become citizens. They would first have to apply for a legal resident status then pass an English test and pay back taxes
  • Award permanent resident visas (or 'green cards') for foreign students who receive doctorates and PhDs from US universities
  • Increase the number of H-1B 'specialty occupation' temporary work visas granted each year from 85,000 annually to a maximum of about 200,000 annually
  • Create a 'w-visa' for low-skilled workers in agriculture and construction
  • Require US employers to check the employment status of all workers against the E-Verify system before employing them

It is the second point above that the Tea Party particularly dislikes. Tea Party supporters say that establishing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants would amount to an 'amnesty' which would reward criminal behaviour.




They also say that granting an amnesty would probably encourage further illegal immigration in future and would disadvantage legal immigrants who would be left waiting for citizenship while illegal residents' applications were processed.

This is because the US imposes caps on the numbers of permanent residence visas that can be issued each year in most immigration categories. For example, only 41,000 EB-3 skilled worker visas can be issued each year. As there are many more applications than this each year, a large backlog of applications has built up.

To complicate matters further, only 7% of the available visas can go to applicants from any one country each year. This means that applicants from countries with high demand for visas often have to wait many years for their applications to be processed. Applicants for EB-3 visas from China and India, for example, have to wait for around a decade.



Mexicans and Filipinos can wait 20 years for visa

Some applicants for family visas from Mexico and the Philippines have to wait for around 20 years before their visa applications are processed. If illegal immigrants are processed more quickly, the opponents of the pathway argue, then the criminal act of entering the US illegally would be rewarded.

The Tea Party has put up candidates to oppose Congressmen and women who support immigration reform. Mr Brat is a vocal opponent of immigration reform.

He told The Richmond Times Despatch 'With 50 million Americans in their working years unemployed, the last thing we should do is provide amnesty or any form of work authorization to illegal immigrants'.



Poll: Cantor lost because he was unpopular

However, the poll, carried out by Public Policy Polling, suggests that it was not hostility to immigration reform or to the establishment of a pathway to citizenship that cost Mr Cantor his seat.

The poll found that most voters in Mr Cantor's district support immigration reform. The poll suggests that between 64% and 72% support comprehensive immigration reform. The poll also found that only 30% of those polled approved of Mr Cantor as a representative whereas 63% disapproved.

In the primary election held on Tuesday 10th June, Mr Cantor gained only 44% of the popular vote while Mr Brat, received 56% of the vote.



Cantor 'a Washington insider'

Political commentators say that Mr Cantor may be the author of his own misfortune. He is seen as a 'Washington insider' who is more concerned with his own career than with the interests of his constituents.

The view that Mr Cantor was more concerned with his own career than with the citizens of Richmond, Virginia, is supported by examination of his campaign expenses.

Although Mr Cantor raised $5m in campaign funding compared to Mr Brat's $200,000 – 25 times more – he spent a lot of that money on fast food for his staff in Washington and even more on travelling around the country by plane.



Half a million on fast food alone

From January 2013 to May 2014, Mr Cantor spent $570,000 on fast food in Washington. Mr Brat spent just over $200,000 in total on everything - including fast food.

Mr Cantor spent about $360,000 on plane travel. This shows, according to Washington commentator Steve Goldstein, that Cantor was flying around the country supporting other candidates rather than campaigning in Richmond. Richmond is only 90 miles from Washington so it is quicker to get there by car.

The reason why he was doing this, Goldstein says, was in order to try to gain influence with fellow Republicans around the country so that they would support his nomination to be speaker when Mr Boehner retires.



$1.3m on fundraising

Mr Cantor's campaign also spent $1.3m on fundraising for future campaigns.

Mr Goldstein says that it is Mr Cantor's complacency and his out-of-touch image, not his support for
immigration reform, is what cost him the election.

There are two more very good reasons to think that Mr Goldstein might be right.

Firstly, other Republicans who support immigration reform were successful in beating off Tea Party challenges.



Gang of Eight

For example, Lindsay Graham, a Senator from South Carolina, was actually one of the eight senators (known as the Gang of Eight) who drafted the Border Security bill. He beat off several Tea Party challengers who were attempting to defeat him because of his vocal support for immigration reform.

Mr Graham has spoken out for immigration reform on numerous occasions and has warned the Republicans that they need to reach out to ethnic minorities if they are ever to regain the White House.

The Hispanic and Asian populations in the US are the fastest growing segments of society. Mr Graham says that the Republicans need support from these minorities, who tend to vote Democrat, if they are to regain power.



'Not enough angry white guys'

He told journalists in 2012, 'We (the Republicans) are not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term'.

Perhaps the best reason to doubt that Mr Cantor's defeat was caused by his support for immigration reform, though, is that he was not a vocal supporter of reform.

And his defeat could not have been caused by the fact that he supported the establishment of a pathway to citizenship because he never did so.



Cantor not a supporter of comprehensive reform

In fact, Mr Cantor was a supporter of minor reforms to the immigration system such as increasing the number of H-1B skilled worker visas.

Writing on Washington political site, Arit John wrote that Cantor was 'at best a wishy-washy supporter of small reforms'.

However, there is no doubt that, since Cantor's defeat, many news sources in the US have declared that immigration reform is now dead.



Politics about perception

The fact that Mr Cantor's defeat seems to have been caused by his own unpopularity rather than his support for immigration reform may not, in the end, be that important. In politics, after all, what people believe is every bit as important as what is actually true.

As Arit John points out, 'if immigration reform is dead now, it's because everyone keeps saying it is'.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

London Mayor: London would fall like Sparta without immigration

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has said that London can only thrive if it continues to welcome immigrants but he has added that, once immigrants arrive, they must be strongly encouraged to integrate into British society.

Speaking at Investment 2020, an investment conference in London, Mr Johnson, who studied classics at Oxford, compared the capital to two city states in ancient Greece; Athens and Sparta. Mr Johnson said that London would do better to follow the example of Athens, rather than Sparta, if it is to survive and prosper.

'Look at Athens and Sparta' he said; 'Athens was an open city and Sparta kicked people out. Go and look at the ruins of Athens and Sparta now and ask which of the two cities made the greatest contribution to civilisation'.



Foreign residents

Athens and Sparta were rivals for supremacy in the Aegean in the fifth century BC. They were very different societies with different attitudes to foreign residents.

Sparta was a warlike state with little love for poetry or the arts. It was an austere society devoted to war. It limited citizenship to a small caste that had been educated according to the Spartan custom. Other residents were free, non-citizens known as perioikoi, and slaves owned by the State known as helots.

The Spartan State was so warlike that many citizens were killed in battle. Because it was so difficult for foreigners to attain citizenship, the population of citizens began to decline By the fourth century BC, the helots (slaves) greatly outnumbered the citizens and Spartans lived in constant fear of rebellion.



Alexander the Great

The population became so small that Sparta could not prevent the rise of the Macedonian empire of Philip of Macedon. Soon thereafter, Philip's son Alexander the Great was able to conquer the known world.

Athens, by comparison to Sparta at least, was a more open society. It is said that during the sixth century BC, the Athenian statesman Solon called on foreigners to settle in the city and offered citizenship to those who came.

But by the fifth and fourth centuries BC, the Athenians had become much less welcoming. But, compared to the Spartans, they were hospitable enough.




In ancient Athens, foreign residents were known as Metics. The Metics were not able to vote but were allowed to use the court system. The Metic status could last for several generations and passing oneself of as a citizen was an offence.

Records were kept of who was a Metic and who was not but, because records were not as complete as they would be today, disputes sometimes arose as to who was a Metic and who was a citizen.

If a dispute arose about whether an individual was a Metic or a citizen, the matter would end up in court. The evidence of members of the local community would decide the matter. If the community decided that the individual in question was a citizen, the records would be adjusted to show this. If the community decided he was a Metic, then he would be sold into slavery.




Nonetheless, living as a Metic in Athens was clearly attractive as many more foreign citizens lived voluntarily in Athens as Metics than lived as perioikoi (foreign residents) in Sparta.

This appears to support Mr Johnson's view that Athens was friendlier to immigrants than its rival. No doubt the presence of these foreign residents helped Athenian commerce flourish resulting in increased wealth and so facilitating the flowering of Athenian arts and philosophy.

Mr Johnson's point, of course, is that a liberal immigration policy helps a city's culture thrive. He warns that a restrictive immigration policy will damage London.



Challenge to Cameron

This seems to be a direct challenge to the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron who has pledged to reduce net immigration into the UK from 250,000 per year when he came to power in 2010 to below 100,000 by 2015.

So far the government has introduced numerous measures to try to meet this target but has had limited success.

It has
  • Abolished the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa. This allowed foreign graduates of UK universities to stay in the UK and work for two years after graduation for any employer (including self-employment)
  • Abolished the Tier 1 (General) visa which allowed 'highly skilled people' (mainly graduates) from around the world to live and work in the UK. They were able to work for any employer (including self-employment). The government said that many Tier 1 (General) holders worked in low-paid occupations
  • Introduced a cap of 20,700 on the Tier 2 (General) visa for skilled workers
  • Removed the licences from 700 colleges which effectively prevents them from sponsoring foreign students from outside the EU for Tier 4 student visas
  • Prevented UK citizens and permanent residents who earn less than £18,600 a year from bringing foreign born spouses to live in the UK.



UK immigration rising

By 2013, the net immigration figure had fallen to around 150,000 a year but, since then, the figure has risen again and is now above 200,000 annually.

The UK's Office for National Statistics says that this is because of immigration from within the EU about which the government can do nothing. This means that it is quite possible that the figure may well rise again before the next election

This is because of the European Union principle of 'free movement of labour'. This principle, a core principle of the EU, means that all EU citizens have the right to live and work in other EU countries.



'A policy failure of politicians'

Mr Johnson said the 'tens of thousands' pledge 'was a policy failure of politicians, saying they wanted to control immigration which they couldn't do because of free movement'.

This appears to be a direct criticism of Mr Cameron who is the leader of the Conservative Party, of which Mr Johnson is a member. This is bound to rekindle rumours that Mr Johnson is preparing to challenge for Mr Cameron's job after the next election in 2015.

Mr Johnson and Mr Cameron were at school together at the famous Eton College and later studied at Oxford University.



Cameron v Johnson?

Former school and university friends remember that Mr Johnson always thirsted after political power while Mr Cameron showed no interest in it.

Some suggest that Mr Johnson has not abandoned hope of becoming prime minister. Perhaps his latest outburst is confirmation of this.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

No UK immigration bill in Queen's speech

UK political commentators were surprised that there was no mention of a new immigration bill in the Queen's Speech on 4th June. Prime Minister David Cameron was rumoured to be preparing a new bill only two weeks earlier but, when the queen made her speech, there was no mention of the bill.

Westminster insiders said that internal government wrangling had seen the bill removed at the last minute. The Home Office, the department that is responsible for dealing with immigration into the UK, said that it was busy implementing the UK's last immigration act which was only passed by parliament in May.

The Queen's speech is an annual event at which Queen Elizabeth outlines the legislation her government intends to introduce over the next year. During a day of pomp and ceremony at Westminster, the Queen is required to read the speech to the assembled members of the UK parliament.



Immigration bill predicted

In the days before the speech was announced, political commentators were predicting that an immigration bill would be one of the bills scheduled for parliamentary consideration before the next election in May 2015.

On May 24th, The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper with strong links to the Conservative Party, predicted that an immigration bill would be in the Queen's speech. According to The Telegraph, the bill would have contained measures to 'block Europeans from poor countries coming to Britain for work'. It would also have introduced measures to discourage UK companies from employing illegal workers.

However, when the text of the speech was released, there was no mention of the immigration bill. Westminster commentators said that this was because the Liberal Democrats, members of a coalition government with Mr Cameron's Conservative Party, had vetoed it.




The opposition Labour Party said that it was 'staggering' that there was no mention of immigration in the speech. Labour MPs interviewed by the media had clearly been instructed to describe the Coalition government as a 'zombie' government which was dead but still walking until the next election in 2015.

They said that the eleven bills outlined in the speech showed that the government has all but ground to a halt. It is the lowest number of bills laid out in a Queen's speech for many years. The average since 1994 has been about 20 and in 2006 there were 45 bills outlined in the speech.

It is believed that Mr Cameron was keen to include an immigration bill which would have limited the right of EU citizens to reside and to claim benefits in the UK to counter the electoral threat to the Conservatives posed by the right-wing anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP).



UKIP 'earthquake'

UKIP caused a political 'earthquake' in the UK on 22nd May 2014 by winning the greatest number of seats in the UK for the European parliament. UKIP campaigns for the UK to leave the European Union. It says that this would have many benefits for the UK chief among which would be the ability to 'take control of our borders' again.

The UK is a member state of the EU and, therefore, EU citizens from other states have the right to live and work in the UK. This, UKIP says, is resulting in unemployment amongst UK nationals as they are undercut by workers from eastern Europe who are prepared to work for much less. This message has had considerable appeal, particularly among working class voters.

But the BBC reported that the Liberal Democrats had vetoed the bill.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Canadian immigration bill will lead to 'second class citizenship'

A new immigration bill currently before the Canadian parliament will mean if it becomes law that new Canadian citizens have lesser rights than those born Canadian, according to opposition critics.

The bill would allow the Canadian government to strip new Canadian citizens of their citizenship under certain circumstances. They could lose their Canadian nationality if they have dual nationality and were to be convicted of a serious offence (for example a terrorist offence) whether in Canada or abroad.

Some lawyers complain that, because this cannot happen to those born Canadian, this would be discriminatory and create a class of second-class citizens.



No hearing

In addition, this revocation of citizenship could be carried out by civil servants without a hearing before a judge. A hearing would only be held in exceptional circumstances. There would be no appeal process against the decision to revoke citizenship.

Canadian constitutional lawyers have warned that the changes may well be contrary to Canada's constitution and could therefore be struck down by Canada's Supreme Court.

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, the immigration spokesperson (or 'critic' as 'shadow ministers' are called in Canada) for the opposition New Democratic Party said 'a lot of lawyers have argued against the constitutionality of this bill because there is no appeal process possible.



'There should not be two tiers of citizens'

'There should not be two tiers of citizens, where one citizen can have access to our judicial system and another one cannot because their parents are Egyptian, for example. That's a very dangerous path'.

Canadian constitutional lawyers also argue that the new law would allow Canadian citizens to be punished twice for the same offence, which would also be unconstitutional. They would be punished once by the court that convicted them and once by the Canadian government when it stripped them of their citizenship.

Mr Alexander has lashed out at lawyers who oppose the bill claiming that they are 'promoting the interests of convicted terrorists and serious criminals over the safety and security of Canadians'.



'Folly and hypocrisy'

He also accused opposition parties of 'folly and hypocrisy'. He told journalists that 'both the Liberals and the NDP (the two main opposition parties) remain offside with Canadians who recognize the immense value of Canadian citizenship and the importance of protecting its integrity'.

Immigration bill C-24, which, if it becomes law will be known as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, was introduced by immigration minister Chris Alexander in February.

Among its other provisions, it will make it harder to become a Canadian citizen. Those with permanent residence visas would have to wait four years, rather than three, before applying for citizenship.



More time in the country

They would also have to spend a greater proportion of their time in the country before they could apply for citizenship.

They would be free to apply after four years if they had spent 183 days per year in Canada during those four years. If they were to leave it longer to apply, they would be required to spend 183 days per year in Canada in four of the six years before making their citizenship application.

Some campaigners argue that this stipulation would discriminate against hard-working migrants who travel abroad for work related reasons because they would be unlikely to meet the 183 day residence requirement.



Opposition will oppose

The Canadian opposition said it would vote against the bill because the government allowed only two hours debating such an important piece of legislation and also because they do not agree with the bill.

Miss Blanchette-Lamothe said 'all the experts at the committee hearings agreed that this bill is probably unconstitutional'.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ethnic minority MPs: UK government must tackle immigration fears

Two high-profile MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds have said that the UK government must tackle voters' fears about immigration. Both MPs are the sons of immigrants.

Sajid Javid, a Conservative MP and minister for culture, and Chukka Umunna, the opposition Labour Party's Shadow Business Secretary, have both said that voters have legitimate fears about immigration.

Mr Javid is the son of Pakistani immigrants and the MP for the Midlands seat of Bromsgrove. He was an international banker and became an MP in 2010 and was promoted to the cabinet as the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport earlier this year.



Concern among voters

In an interview in May he told Total Politics magazine that the UK had 'virtually no control' over immigration which was leading to concern among voters.

He said 'When I was campaigning in the 2010 election, long before this European election, a number of people on the doorstep would raise the issue of immigration with you, not in a 'for or against' way, just concerns about the numbers. That's a legitimate issue. If that's what people are concerned about, politicians do need to listen and they do need to react'.

Mr Umunna is the MP for Streatham and the son of a Nigerian father and an English mother. He became a lawyer in 2002 and an MP in 2010. He became Shadow Business Secretary in 2011. He wrote a piece for The Guardian newspaper in May in which he said that his constituents in Streatham, South London, were concerned about immigration.



Concerns 'not racist'

He told The Guardian that these concerns could not be labelled racist because they were usually raised by his ethnic minority constituents.

Both men seem to have been talking about immigration from the EU. In the last decade, it is believed that up to 1.6m people from the EU have settled in the UK. Polling shows that concern about EU immigration is high in the UK. 75% of people say that they believe that the level of immigration is too high.

This seems to have been a significant factor in the success of the anti-EU, anti-immigration UK Independence Party in the elections for the European Parliament held on 22nd May. In the poll, UKIP gained the greatest number of votes with 27% of votes cast and 24 of the UK's 73 European Parliamentary seats. Over 5m people voted UKIP.



UK must leave EU to control immigration, says UKIP

UKIP argues that the UK can only control immigration by leaving the EU because European citizens from all countries are free to live and work in all other EU countries. Therefore, UKIP says, that even if you reduce immigration from outside the EU there could still be an increase in overall immigration because of immigration from within the EU which the UK can do nothing about.

However, UKIP argues that, since the EU expanded to include the countries which were formerly members of the communist Warsaw Pact, the principle of free movement of labour, has led to mass migrations from these poorer countries of the east to the wealthier countries of the west.
Therefore, UKIP says, the UK must leave the EU and 'take control of our borders'.



UKIP approach would be racist - Umunna

Mr Umunna warns against this isolationist approach. He told The Guardian that this approach would be racist and would 'not so different to what was once said of people like my father, arriving here from the Commonwealth in the 1960s and 70s'.

The contributions of Mr Javid and Mr Umunna are interesting because both men are themselves the children of immigrants from ethnic minorities. For many years, much of the UK's immigration came
from the countries which composed the British Empire, many of which joined the Commonwealth.

There was considerable hostility to these new arrivals in the 1950s and 60s, much of it on racial grounds. Indeed, some commentators suggest that the UK has failed to have a proper debate on immigration since 1968 because the issue of migration has been confused with the question of race after a notorious speech by a prominent politician.



The whip hand

In 1968, a senior Conservative MP, Enoch Powell, gave a speech in Birmingham in which he said that one of his constituents had complained that 'In this country in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man'.

He went on to say that he was filled with 'foreboding' and to quote the Roman poet Virgil saying 'like the Roman, I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood'.'

Mr Powell was quickly sacked from his post as Shadow Defence Secretary. Since then, many commentators claim, politicians are scared to raise fears about immigration for fear of being accused of racism.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cambridge University head slams UK immigration policy

Professor Leszek Borysiewicz, the vice chancellor of Cambridge University, has said that the UK's immigration policy is damaging the UK's university sector and also the country in general.

The professor said that the use of a 'crude' numerical immigration target is leading foreign students to believe that the UK is 'not a welcoming place to study in'.

Professor Borysiewicz's own parents were immigrants to the UK. He told UK newspaper The Guardian 'When I think of how my parents were welcomed to this country, I find that actually quite saddening. I do feel we are an open, democratic country and we should be setting the standards for the rest of the world, not hindering them'.



Cardiff to Cambridge

Professor Borysiewicz was born in Cardiff to Polish parents in 1950. He is a medical doctor who has specialised in research into immunology, spending most of his working life in Cambridge.

He warned that the government's immigration policies are painting a negative picture of the UK overseas and discouraging foreign students, particularly those in the Indian subcontinent from applying to UK universities. Instead, they are going to study in the US, Canada and in other countries.

The numbers of Indian and Pakistani students coming to study in the UK has plummeted since the current Coalition government came to power in 2010. The government is accused of introducing policies which discourage international students from applying to UK universities.



Indian and Pakistani student numbers down

The Guardian reports that between 2011 and 2012, the number of Indian students studying at UK universities fell by 38% while the number of Pakistanis fell by 62%.

The government has insisted that the UK still wants to attract 'the brightest and the best' to study at UK universities but the professor says that the idea of a strict immigration target, which the government introduced in 2010, is bound to cause problems because it 'hides the true potential benefit that people coming to Britain can actually have'.

The UK is currently governed by a coalition government made up of the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron and the smaller Liberal Democrats. Mr Cameron promised, as leader of the opposition, to reduce net annual immigration from the then level of about 250,000 a year to 'tens of thousands' a year.



Immigration reduction measures

The government has taken numerous steps to do this. It has cut the number of Tier 1 (highly skilled migrants) visas available every year from tens of thousands to hundreds and placed a cap of 20,700 on the number of Tier 2 (General) skilled worker visas available annually.

Academics complain that the government has also taken steps to cut the number of students because students are included in the immigration figures.

The net immigration figure is calculated by finding the number of people arriving in the UK as immigrants in a 12 month period and subtracting the number of people emigrating. Migrants are defined by the UN, and the UK, as people who leave one country intending to stay in another for 12 months or more.



Students are 'migrants'

Because students live in the country where they study for the duration of their course, university students are counted as migrants. Therefore, one way to cut the net immigration figure is to cut the number of students coming to UK universities.

Academics complain that this is short-sighted and damaging to the UK's economy and international reputation. The government says that it has not limited the number of genuine students studying at UK universities but has, instead , cracked down on abuse of the Tier 4 student visa system by closing 700 bogus colleges which were providing student visa sponsorship to foreign nationals intending to come to the UK primarily to work.

While the government has not limited the number of students who are allowed to come to the country on Tier 4 student visas every year, it has introduced more checks on students to ensure that they have good English and have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the UK.



Heavy-handed checks

UK universities also complain that the immigration authorities have introduced a heavy-handed system of checks. They say that the immigration authorities make frequent changes to the immigration requirements making it difficult for Universities to comply with the rules.

In August 2012, the government removed the Tier 4 visa sponsorship licence from London Metropolitan University. This meant that thousands of students, many from the Indian subcontinent, were left without a sponsor; their Tier 4 visas were also revoked. This is said to have caused considerable disquiet in India and Pakistan.

The UK universities minister, David Willetts, launched an advertising campaign in India and Pakistan to try to undo the damage but the numbers coming to the UK have never recovered.



International competition for students

Professor Borsyiewicz says that Cambridge is still attracting foreign students because of its global reputation. He told The Guardian, 'a university such as Cambridge competes with Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, much more so than other UK universities'.

But the professor said that he was still concerned about the potential damage to the university because of government's changes. He said 'anything that prevents us getting the very best students I believe would be to the long-term detriment of the United Kingdom'.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Chinese investor visa applicants sue Canadian immigration

More than 1,400 Chinese citizens who had their applications for Canadian permanent residence visas terminated when the Immigrant Investor Program was closed are suing the Canadian government.

The 1,400 are part of a class action launched in the Canadian federal court on 4th June 2014 after Canadian immigration minister Chris Alexander announced the closure of the program in February this year.

They have been joined by another 100 disappointed applicants from other countries including Turkey, the UK, South Africa and India.



$5m in damages

They are seeking $5m each in damages (and additional damages for each dependant that would have come with them had their applications been successful. Their lawyers argue that their applications were not processed within Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) target timeframe.

Had they been processed within that timeframe, they argue, their applications would have been processed before the program closed.

The IIP allowed foreign citizens with assets of more than CAN$1.6m to apply for Canadian permanent residence providing they
  • Lent $800,000 to the Canadian government and
  • Undertook to reside permanently in Canada after receiving their visa.



Immigration fraud

Mr Alexander terminated the program in February because of 'immigration fraud'. He gave an interview to the South China Morning Post in February in which he said that the program was a failure for various reasons.

He said that it was not really an investor program because all that was required was that applicants should loan money to the Canadian government, rather than make an investment. He added that many of those who received visas under the program did not then go to live in Canada, as the program required.

He told the paper that the IIP only resulted in Canada getting 'soft loans from absentees' and said that he had therefore closed the program and would replace it with a new program which would require applicants to make investments in Canadian businesses rather than loan money to the government.



80% of applicants were Chinese

At the time of closing, the vast majority of applicants under the investor programme were Chinese nationals. There were around 25,000 applications outstanding of which around 80% were from Chinese applicants.

Principle applicants were able to apply for visas for their spouses and dependent children. In all, around 65,000 people were affected by the termination of the program, 50,000 of them Chinese.

The domination of the IIP by Chinese applicants has arisen because of the rise in the number of Chinese citizens with large quantities of disposable income because of the spectacular growth of the Chinese economy. Chinese nationals are often extremely keen to acquire rights of residence elsewhere.



Most Chinese millionaires want foreign resident status

A survey has shown that 64% of Chinese millionaires are seeking permanent residence elsewhere. Many of these say they want to emigrate because they are concerned about pollution, and the quality of education for their children. Others may want to continue to live in China but want an 'insurance policy' in case of political instability or unrest in China.

Mr Alexander said that Chinese nationals, including those whose IIP applications were terminated in February, would be free to apply for the new investor scheme which will replace it.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

UK-annual net immigration remains at 212,000

The latest UK immigration figures show that there has been no change in the net immigration figure which remains at 212,000 for the year to December 2013. This is over twice the government's target level.

The figures were released by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday 22nd May 2014, the same day as the elections for the European Parliament are taking place in the UK. They will take place throughout the EU between 22nd and 24th May. The figures were thought likely to give a small boost to the anti-immigration UK Independence Party.

The net migration figure is calculated by finding the number of people arriving in the UK as immigrants over any given period and subtracting the number of people leaving the country over the same period as emigrants. Migrants (immigrants and emigrants) are defined by the United Nations as people who move to another country expecting to stay for a year.



Net immigration

In the year to December 2013, 526,000 people arrived in the UK as migrants and 314,000 people left the UK to live elsewhere.

The figures show a great increase in the number of people coming to the UK from the EU. 201, 000 people came from the EU, up 43,000 on the figure for the year to September 2013.

There was a drop of 11,000 in the number of non-EU migrants arriving in the UK and a drop of 7,000 in the number of UK residents emigrating.



Tens of thousands

The figures show that it will be extremely hard for the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, to honour his pledge to cut immigration to 'tens of thousands' by the time of the UK general election in May 2015.

This is because the UK cannot, as a member of the EU, prevent EU citizens from coming to work in the UK. The figures show that there were significant increases in the numbers of people coming to the UK to work from many EU countries.

Number of new National Insurance numbers issued by country


Number of new NI numbers

Rise on previous year



Cameron's pledge

Mr Cameron became prime minister in 2010 having promised during the election campaign to cut annual net immigration from its then level of around 250,000 a year to 'tens of thousands'.

His government has
  • Closed the Tier 1 (General) visa stream. This visa allowed skilled professionals to work freely in the UK for any employer (including on a self-employed basis)
  • Closed the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa stream. This visa allowed foreign graduates of UK universities to work in the UK for any employer (including on a self-employed basis) for two years after graduation. If during that time, they found a job they could then transfer to Tier 2
  • Imposed a cap of 20,700 on the number of Tier 2 (General) skilled worker visas that could be issued annually. There is no cap on the number of Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas.
  • Removed the sponsorship licences of 700 'bogus' colleges which were, the government said, 'selling immigration not education'.
  • Introduced a minimum income requirement for any British national or permanent resident wishing to bring their spouse to live with them in the UK. Britons must earn at least £18,600 before they can do so.



EU free movement of labour

However, none of these changes have affected EU citizens who do not need visas to work in the UK anyway.
  • Critics of Mr Cameron's immigration policy claim that it has damaged the UK economy. They say that Tier 1 visa holders tend to be well-educated people who are a benefit to the economy
  • Tier 2 workers have the skills that British businesses need
  • Tier 4 student visa holders contribute more than £10bn annually to the UK economy consisting mainly of tuition fees and living costs. The number of international students at UK universities has fallen slightly from 180,000 to 177,000.

Mr Cameron will draw some comfort from the fact that the figure has not risen, as many analysts were predicting.



Damaging to the UK economy

The number of skilled workers and students from outside the EU has fallen which must be damaging to the UK's economy while the number of migrants from within the EU has risen.

This concentration on reducing the headline figure is not only doomed to failure. It is damaging to the UK's economy.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Democrat Senators tell US immigration campaigners to focus on Boehner

Campaigners for immigration reform in the US have met Democratic senators in Washington to discuss tactics.

The Democratic senators have urged the campaigners to spend the summer putting as much pressure as possible on Republican members of the House of Representatives to try to force them to support comprehensive immigration reform before Washington closes for the summer recess.

The Washington system requires new legislation to be passed by both houses of Congress; the Senate and The House of Representatives (known as 'the House') before it can become law.



Congress split

The Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, passed a reform act in June 2013. But the House, which is controlled by the Republicans, has not even voted on the bill. The speaker of the House, comes from the party with the most representatives in the House. The Speaker decides what bills the House will vote on.

Speaker John Boehner, (Republican, Ohio) has not allowed the House to vote on the bill previously passed by the Senate (known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act). Nor has he allowed any votes on any other immigration bills throughout 2013.

Washington commentators have speculated as to the reason for this. The consensus view is that he is scared that allowing the vote would cause huge divisions in the Republican Party leading to a split in the Party.



Immigration system is 'broken'

Virtually all politicians in the US agree that the immigration system is 'broken'. But, as with virtually every other issue, they are unable to agree what should be done about it.

The Border Security Act would
  • Create a 'pathway to citizenship' for most illegal residents. There are an estimated 11.5m illegal residents in the US, many of them 'Latinos'. They would have to pay a $500 fine, learn English and pay back taxes. This would allow many of them to gain permanent residence and perhaps eventually US citizenship.
  • 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 if demand was high
  • Allow graduates from US universities with higher degrees to apply for permanent resident visas on graduation. There would be no cap on the number of applicants each year.
  • Increase spending on border security by $4.5bn over the next four years

The first of these reforms is perhaps the most important and certainly the most controversial change that is proposed to the system.



Public supports pathway to citizenship

Most Democrats support the establishment of a 'pathway to citizenship' for illegal immigrants. Polling shows that the American public too supports the 'pathway'. Repeated polling over the last few years has shown that between 52 and 83% of the US public believes that illegal immigrants should be allowed to 'come out of the shadows' and work legally, as they cannot do at present.

Many people within the Republican Party support reform too. Business groups and religious conservatives have both lobbied Congressional Republicans to back reform.

However, there is one group that does not support reform and this group is extremely vociferous in its opposition. The Tea Party is an informal grouping of conservatives, libertarians and the like who are, broadly, opposed to 'big government', federal taxes and, generally, illegal immigration.



Tea Party exerts 'disproportionate influence'

The Tea Party is not a political party, as such, it is a loose association of like-minded individuals. It exerts a great deal of influence, many say a disproportionate influence, on Republican politicians because Tea Party supporters tend to vote in primary elections in large numbers.

Tea Party candidates usually stand against Republican incumbents who are, in the minds of the Tea Party at least, dangerous liberals.

Mr Boehner faces a Tea Party candidate in his primary later this year, in part at least, because he is suspected of being a supporter of immigration reform, despite the fact that he is responsible for denying the House a chance to vote on the subject.



Republicans face pressure to oppose reform

Republicans, therefore, are facing considerable pressure from their largely white constituencies at home, who are urging them to oppose reform.

The Democratic senators are urging immigration reformers to put pressure on the same Republican representatives to vote in favour of reform.

To become law, the bill would require 60% support in the House. There are 435 seats in the House. There are currently 233 Republicans and 199 Democrats in the House with 3 vacant seats. If all 199 Democrats were to vote in favour of reform, then 62 Republicans would need to back the bill for it to pass.



'Enough Republicans' support reform

Democrats believe that there are enough Republicans who support the bill already, if only they could get Mr Boehner to allow a vote.

This is probably because Republicans recognise that they need the votes of Hispanic and Asian American voters in future elections if there is ever to be a Republican president again.

At the 2012 Presidential election, Republican challenger Mitt Romney won a majority among white voters but was extremely unpopular with ethnic minority voters. This is largely down to the Republicans' attitude to the 'pathway to citizenship'.



Presidential decree

Democrats warned that, if the Republicans do not cooperate on reform, then President Obama might well introduce some temporary changes to the immigration system by presidential decree.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, one of the authors of the Border Security Act told activists 'If they don't act, you know, then the president is going to have no choice but to act on his own. But we'd all prefer that there be a legislative solution'.

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