Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Re: UK ‘shooting itself in the foot’ on immigration policy

Few days ago I read an article in The Times written by Lord O’Donnell, the former head of the British civil service.
In the article, Lord O’Donnell opined that the UK government is shooting itself in the foot and should change its immigration policy to boost economic growth.

He went on to mention how the annual limit introduced by the coalition government in 2011 on skilled workers from outside the EU is proving to be a “big barrier to growth” that is depriving the UK of talented people.

The affable Lord O’Donnell then went on to advise the government that “The first thing the government can do to help growth is to stop shooting itself in the foot”.

Everyone that has been following the staccato of changes to Immigration Rules (about 20 changes in the last 2 years - and still counting) will agree that it is borne out of the government’s drive to slash net migration to, as it is often spouted by the Home Office officials, “tens of thousands” by 2015.

Nobody is arguing with the drive to slash net migration but as it is evident with the style of cuts being implemented in all other spheres of governance, this so called drive to slash net migration and the way it is being done is counter-productive as it is stifling growth.

The changes to Immigration Rules that are adversely affecting growth is not limited to skilled workers from outside the EU but cuts across all the Points-Based System applications. Most visibly of all are the changes affecting foreign Students.

This has had most Colleges and Universities reeling from huge shortfall in student in-take from outside the European zone. It is a known fact that most of the Colleges and Universities in United Kingdom had always been dependent on foreign students to balance their books. These foreign students pay astronomical fees which the institutions depend on as a lifeline for growth. Suddenly, the rug is now being pulled from under their feet.

I attended a meeting with some proprietors of private colleges about a year ago in London where everyone present was lamenting at the effects of the changes inherent at the time. Many more changes have been introduced since that meeting that has further hit these educational institutions in the pocket. The micro after-effect of this is the loss of licences of many Colleges and Universities - the most recent being the London Metropolitan University - and the attendant loss of jobs by employees and students of these unfortunate institutions.

It is reckoned that the macro after-effect of this is a massive loss to the economy which many believe runs into hundreds of millions of pounds a year which has contributed to the lack of growth in the economy.

Part of the reasons for this constant tinkling with the immigration rules also stem from the belief that immigrants are taking up jobs meant for the British nationals. This school of thought is so far away from the truth that it is so glaring that even the uninitiated can see it clearly that it is nothing but.

A recent example is the problem that arose with G4S shortly before the recent London Olympics.

G4s was awarded a contract to employ a little over 10,000 people to work during the Olympics. This contract was awarded years before the Olympics was due to open but less than a week to the opening of the games we were told that G4S was unable to fill the vacancies. This is in spite of the fact that there were over 3 million people unemployed at the time.

It beggars believe that an opening of 10,000 employment opportunities could not be filled at a time that over 3 million people are on the dole.

It doesn’t take a genius to work it out that had the Home Office not been coming down hard on migrants and employers employing them, the problem with G4S wouldn’t arise.

I commented in one of my numerous articles that we seem to be cutting our noses to spite our faces.

I was recently invited to a TV talk show on Sky channel 203 called “The Chrissy B Show” to discuss the topic ‘In Search of Greener Pastures’.

Before I came on to my segment of the show, a clip was aired of a lady who works with migrants in a factory and she spoke of how hardworking the migrants she works with are. She went as far as saying that the migrants - even though they hardly have enough sleep due to the long hours they worked - are even scared to turn down overtime. She extolled their work ethics and added that even though she is hardworking herself, she is in awe of their energy and willingness to go on regardless.  

I am not against tightening of the borders and restricting or barring people who should not be in this country from coming in but my argument is that it should be done with some level of common sense, decorum and fair play. In a nutshell, whatever rules that is to be put in place for this purpose should have a human face.

The situation has got to the stage now that certain aspect of the immigration rule borders on segregation. The income threshold requirement being introduced affecting even British citizens wishing to bring their spouse into the UK for settlement from outside the European zone is a typical example.

The income threshold requirement is set at a level that is beyond the average employed British citizen. To make matters worse the threshold gets even higher with the more children you have with your spouse.

This is a subtle warning to British citizens to choose carefully who to fall in love with. I am surprised that no one as yet challenged this flagrant abuse of human right.

Again, if you have a child living outside the European zone who is over 18, you cannot bring that child to come and live with you in the UK unless they are suffering from some ailment that requires looking after round-the-clock. Even then, you still have to prove that there is nobody else to care for them out there. How bizarre?

So in my candid opinion, I would say that the learned Lord O’Donnell is spot on with his opinion and advice that the UK government is “shooting itself in the foot” and should change its immigration policy to boost economic growth.