UK residents will be going to the polls tomorrow (7th of May 2015) for the General Election and of course one of the hot topics as in many EU countries at the moment is immigration. Immigration policy is of course one of the hot topics in the upcoming General Election being held on 7 May 2015. Many voters worry about immigration in the UK, which has led the political parties to include detailed immigration policies within their respective manifestos.
As a UK Immigration and Human Rights lawyer, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at an overview of the immigration policies of the Lib Dems, Labour, SNP, Green Party, Conservatives and Ukip – and hopefully dividing them into ‘the good’, ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly’ to summaries the main policies, it may help you to make up your mind if immigration is a pivotal concern for you.
So here it goes…
The Lib Dems have advocated restricting Universal Credit payments for their first six months in the country. In-work benefits would only be payable to migrants working the equivalent of 35 hours per week on minimum wage.
The party pledges in its manifesto to remain a member of the EU, and to allow “high-skill immigration to support key sectors of the economy, and ensure work, tourist and family visit visas are processed quickly and efficiently.”
Labour cites on its website that they “…are proud of our diverse and outward-facing country, where people have come from abroad over many generations to build Britain’s businesses, work in our public services and contribute to this country. We also understand that people have legitimate concerns about immigration policy – that’s why we believe reforms are needed.”
Those reforms include:
Benefits and Work
Migrants will not be able to claim benefits for at least two years. Exploitation of illegal immigrants in the workplace will be deterred by tougher penalties, including making it illegal for employers to undercut British workers by exploiting migrants. Labour have also promised a “smarter system of controls” to encourage “top talent” and to control low skilled migration. However, workers in “public services in public facing roles” will be required to speak English.
Border controls will be strengthened, plus an extra 1,000 border staff, making it easier to deport foreign criminals and stop illegal immigration.
The SNP has described the UK’s immigration policy as “inflexible” and is calling for devolved powers on the issue. In the Scottish independence referendum, the party advocated a “controlled points-based system to support the migration of skilled workers for the benefit of Scotland’s economy”.
The party also seeks the reintroduction of the post-study work visa and promises to review current immigration detention system and regime, in order to deliver a fairer and more effective system.
The key policies for the Green Party include the following:
The Green party rejects that foreign nationals with “resources or desirable skills” should be given preferential treatment.
People overseas who are “victims of past errors in immigration decisions” will be able to come to Britain “where these decisions have resulted in continuing serious deprivation”.
People who have lived illegally in the country for five years will be allowed to remain unless they pose a serious danger to public safety.
Abolish the income-threshold for an overseas spouse to come and join a British national in the UK
The Tories aim to keep annual net migration to 100,000. Tories say they have the “ambition” of achieving that figure through “tough new welfare conditions and robust enforcement.”
The Tories have promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU as one of their key policies. Additionally, EU migrants’ rights of “free movement” will be re-negotiated with Brussels and there will be further crackdowns on abuse of the immigration system by closing bogus colleges and making it tougher for illegal immigrants to remain in Britain.
They also pledge to negotiate with the EU to bring in stronger powers to deport foreign criminals and prevent re-entry.
Migrants will be barred from claiming benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit for four years.
UKIP is an anti-immigration/anti EU Party UKIP and while leader Nigel Farage has disclosed a plethora of immigration policies, they have not always been coherent.
A new commission will decide on the best level of net immigration, and establish a visa system modelled on the Australian points-based system. Preference will be given to Commonwealth nationals.
There would be “no amnesty on illegal immigration” and police will get improved technology at police stations to identify illegal immigrants. Criminals will lose the right of citizenship.
A Ukip government would leave the European Union to “take back control of our borders”. At the border, there would be one passport queue for British citizens and a second passport queue for “Rest of the World”, rather than the current EU/non-EU system. There would be “no amnesty on illegal immigration” and police will get improved technology at police stations to identify illegal immigrants. Criminals will lose the right of citizenship.
Benefits and Work
Ukip says it recognises the benefits of “limited, controlled” immigration. Work permits would only be issued to fill skills gaps in the UK jobs market such as in the NHS. Most notably, EU workers would face the same points-based system and time-limited work permits that currently applies to non-EU migrants. Those coming to work in the UK must have a job to go to, must speak English and must have accommodation agreed prior to their arrival under.
Migrants would only be eligible for benefits when they have been paying tax and National Insurance contributions for five years and will only be eligible for permanent residence after ten years.
All visitors and migrants coming to the UK would be required to have NHS-approved private health insurance. Migrants would only be able to access NHS care, free of private insurance schemes, after paying National Insurance contributions for five years.
Ukip will reinstate the ‘primary purpose rule’ for bringing foreign spouses and children to the UK. This rule required foreign nationals married to British citizens “to prove that the primary purpose of their marriage was not to obtain British residency”. The burden of proof will be placed upon those applying for residency rather than on immigration officials.
I think it is clear from the parties’ policies that immigration is something that each party is trying to address with those classed as ‘good’ preferring lighter systematic control on immigration while staying in the EU, to those asking for a referendum concerning EU Membership, to the very extreme of the anti-European and anti-immigration parties, which lumps all blame upon immigrants.
The race to the bottom is frankly nothing new, especially in Western countries where as the world becomes globalised, the gap between the rich and the poor widens, resulting in mass immigration being seen as a threat to the general wellbeing of the country, especially at times of austerity and economic hardship.
Undoubtedly, no matter what the election outcome, it will have a huge impact upon immigration policies and immigrations lawyers UK will be following with much anticipation.
By Klara J (LL.M in Human Rights from Leicester of University) and Tito Mbariti (UK Immigration and Human Rights Solicitor )If you have been affected by any UK immigration matter, please contact Solicitor Tito, a UK immigration and human rights solicitor, for a free initial consultation about your legal options. Call 07544 669131 or on Skype: tito.mbariti.