Alp Mehmet is Chairman of Migration Watch UK.
At last the two contestants for leadership of the Conservative Party are turning their attention to immigration. But there is a snag: they are both focussing on the asylum chaos resulting from the Channel crossings.
They have hardly mentioned the real issue – the sheer scale of continuing legal immigration. Today we are publishing a remarkable poll on this wider issue.
Our poll reveals a deep undercurrent of concern about the impact of massive levels of immigration on the future of our society. Indeed, it shows that 60 per cent of the British public want to see a reduction in immigration, and 34 per cent want to see it reduced by a lot.
Conservative voters feel even more strongly. Nearly eight out of ten want to see a reduction and half of them want to see it reduced by a lot. Yet until last Sunday neither of the remaining Conservative leadership candidates had even mentioned the subject.
Rishi Sunak’s “ten-point plan”, published in the Sunday Telegraph, is focused almost entirely on the weaknesses of the asylum system. He suggests that the number of refugees accepted in Britain should be determined by need but he does not indicate how many of the world’s 40 million potential refugees we should accept; that is to be a matter for Parliament.
Those fleeing imminent danger will be prioritised and the only routes to asylum would be safe and legal (whatever that means in practice); 80 per cent of claims must be resolved within six months and foreign criminals and failed asylum seekers must be sent home.
Again, quite how this could be done is unspecified. Indeed, Priti Patel, more or less, said the same things in her ”New Plan for Immigration”, published last week.
Liz Truss is even more superficial. In her interview with the Mail on Sunday, she doubled down on the Rwanda policy and promised an increase in front line border staff but there was little else.
All this is beating about the bush. Worse, it is probably intended to distract attention from the real issue which is the sheer scale of legal immigration to the UK. Net migration is five or six times current levels of asylum seekers. The seriousness of this matter is beyond dispute, and is certainly understood by members of the Conservative Party.
The recent census has confirmed that the UK population has increased by eight million over the past twenty years. Seven million of that increase is due to immigrants and their children. Yet England, the main British destination for immigrants, is already nearly twice as crowded as Germany and three and a half times as crowded as France.
The pressure is being felt on all our public services and especially on housing, where we will have to build a new home every six minutes, night and day, to house new migrants. That is what Kemi Badenoch was alluding to when she pointed to the need to address high immigration if we were to solve the housing conundrum.
She and I are both immigrants to the UK. Perhaps this is why we recognise the serious risks to the future of our country by uncontrolled, runaway immigration. Yes to immigration, but an emphatic no to the uncontrolled, and growing, mass immigration that we still have.
Housing is indeed a real issue, not just in the South, but also in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ constituencies. All MPs will know that there are strong feelings on these matters in many parts of England, but people are very cautious about raising aspects of immigration in the public debate.
Sadly, the Conservative record on immigration has been one of consistent failure. At the general elections of 2010, 2015 and 2017 they undertook to get immigration down to tens of thousands a year but failed to do so.
In the 2019 election the Government promised to control and reduce immigration which, before Covid struck, was averaging about 230,000 a year. Again, they have completely failed to do so.
Indeed, Boris Johnson’s Government have massively increased the scope for future immigration. The “Australian-style” points-based system turned out to be just camouflage for lower salary and qualification requirements. They also abolished the requirement that jobs first be advertised on the domestic market.
As for students, they will now be allowed to stay on for an extra two years in which they will be able to simply stack shelves or, indeed, do no work at all. In a nutshell Johnson and Sajid Javid, as the Home Secretary, surrendered completely to the immigration lobby.
So, I now issue a challenge to both candidates to come clean with their immigration policies. Will they give a clear undertaking to make a major reduction in the scale of immigration? Will they continue to ignore one of the major issues of domestic policy, or will they have the courage to address it?