Lord Green is President of MigrationWatch UK and a cross-bench peer.
Battle will shortly be re-joined now that the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill has returned to the House of Lords. The asylum lobby will be out in force – yet Ministers will be quite happy for attention to be focussed on the small boats and the legislation intended to tackle them. Their reason? Quite simply, because this distracts attention from the really serious long-term consequences of their wider immigration policy.
The truth is that our country faces a truly critical turning point. Both asylum and immigration are now out of control – indeed so much so, that the future nature of our country is at stake.
If you think that I am exaggerating, consider this. In the 20 years up to 2021, the UK population increased by about 8 million. Nearly seven million of that was the result of immigration. To allow this to continue, indeed even to accelerate, would be to set our country on a course that would change its very nature in a generation or two. Is this really the future we want to see?
I speak from experience. I have been on the immigration case for over 20 years, since I co-founded Migration Watch UK with Professor Coleman of Oxford University in 2001. I have watched the ups and downs of nearly a dozen Home Secretaries, but I have never seen a situation such as we now face.
The latest immigration figures are simply beyond belief. Net migration (the inflow minus the outflow) now stands at just over 600,000 for last year alone. Of course, there are some special factors. Refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan plus migrants from Hong Kong account for more than 260,000 arrivals. Just over 40,000 relatives of those already granted asylum brought total refugee immigration to around 300,000 people in 2022.
The British public are remarkably generous, but they are strongly opposed to those entering illegally by crossing the Channel in small boats. These arrivals are mainly men, most have destroyed their documents to inhibit their identification and subsequent removal and all have come from at least one safe country, usually France. Their numbers are certainly not under control. Indeed, they may soon include thousands who are now crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.
We have reached the point where the cross-Channel route simply has to be closed down by changing the law where necessary – as the Home Secretary clearly recognises. As a result, a battle over the Government’s far-from-perfect legislation to address these issues is now under way in the House of Lords.
Meanwhile, the sheer scale of the usual mix of immigration is where the main longer term problems lie. This is no accident. When we left the EU, Conservative ministers, despite promising to “control” immigration and specifically to reduce non-EU immigration, substantially lowered both the salary and skills requirements for foreign workers. This has driven a massive increase in arrivals from around the world.
The Government also, absurdly, abolished the previous requirement that all jobs should first be advertised on the UK domestic market. The result was to open up nearly half – yes nearly half – of all full-time jobs in the UK to migrants from throughout the world. No wonder the numbers have already shot up, notably from India and Nigeria. Meanwhile, the number of dependants accompanying workers and students has also shot up to a third of a million in the past year alone.
The consequences for housing of these and other recent changes to our immigration system will be huge. We already need to build a new home every five minutes, day and night, just for new immigrants and their families. Even if net migration falls to 350,000 a year the UK population will increase by 7.6 million in the next 25 years, almost entirely due to immigration. That would require an extra 127,000 homes a year or 350 a day. If net migration were to fall only to 488,000 we would be looking at an extra twelve million people and the need for 200,000 new homes a year – roughly 550 a day.
More widely, we are approaching the point at which overseas arrivals and their children constitute the majority of our population. That is already the case in Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester and other towns and cities. This prospect is already influencing our political system. For some time Labour have been in favour of loosening immigration controls even further. If they win the next election they may well do so.
Yet, throughout much of the last twenty years, a majority of the British public have wanted to see immigration reduced. That remains the view of about 60 per cent but they have been, and continue to be, ignored by both parties. It is high time that changed.