Britain to Double Budget for Removing Illegal Immigrants
The Bloomberg News
July 25 (Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Tony Blair's government is to double its annual budget for removing illegal immigrants to 280 million pounds ($518 million) by 2010 and tighten border checks.
Home Secretary John Reid said he'll that demand people traveling from “high risk'' nations obtain visas with fingerprint data by 2008. By 2014, the government will re-impose exit controls phased out in 1994.
“We need to make radical changes,'' Reid said in a statement to Parliament in London today. “We will strengthen and simplify our immigration laws. The main cause of this is the sheer extent of migration.''
Britain and other rich nations are struggling to cope with the 200 million people who resettle around the globe each year, a population the size of Brazil. Reid, who took charge of the Home Office in May, has promised an overhaul of the department after his predecessor Charles Clarke acknowledged that prison officials released more than 1,000 foreign prisoners who should have been considered for deportation.
The opposition Conservative Party dismissed the plan to shake up the Immigration and Nationality Directorate as a rehash of old measures.
“Much of what he announced is not new,'' said David Davis, a Conservative lawmaker who speaks on domestic policy. “The serious problems faced by the IND are not going to be solved by yet another reshuffling of the deck.''
Reid said the changes would clear within five years a backlog of 450,000 applications for political asylum the government found in recent weeks. Asylum claims rose 5 percent in the first quarter of the year to 6,455 compared with the fourth quarter, led by bids from Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Iran.
In 2004, 97.2 million people arrived at Britain's ports and airports including 12 million from outside the European Union. IND granted visas to 294,000 students, 124,000 work permit holders and 53,310 asylum seekers. It deported 56,920 people.
“If these reforms are going to work in the long-term, the Home Office needs to become smarter about who comes and goes from the U.K., clearer about the rules of the system, and more effective in dealing with those who break the rules,'' said Danny Sriskandarajah, an expert on immigration at the Institute for Public Policy Research, which advises Blair's Labour government.
Last year, the government estimated that as many as 570,000 people remained in the country illegally. It would cost up to 6.3 billion pounds to deport all those people, according to Home Office estimates.
Workers migrating from eastern Europe have added 392,000 people since May 2004, the Home Office said in May. With the workforce growing faster than companies are creating jobs, unemployment rose to a 5 1/2-year high of 5.4 percent in the three months through May, up from 4.7 percent a year earlier, government data published July 12 show.
“What drives illegal immigration is the ability to work illegally,'' said John Denham, a Labour lawmaker who leads the Home Affairs Committee in the House of Commons. “Employers who do it drive people out of work and cut wags.''
The IND will be established as an independent agency separate from the Home Office with its own regulator and a non-partisan panel advising officials on policy, Reid said. Some of the changes will require legislation, which will be detailed in the coming months.
Today's announcement was the government's last before Parliament begins its summer recess later today. Lawmakers return on Oct. 9.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Reed V. Landberg in London at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: July 25, 2006 09:55 EDT