Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 10 JANUARY 2006
GREEN KCMG AND
Q140 Chairman: Would you say that
there is actually some at least broadly objective basis to that
difference of treatment, possibly the fact that some countries
are poorer than others and, therefore, there is a perception that
migration is likely to be too wide with those countries? In other
words, the disparity is there, but is there perhaps an objective
basis for it?
Dr Sriskandarajah: Well, before
we consider the question of an objective basis, perhaps this highlights
better than anything else the inherent tensions in making migration
policy. Migration is at once about harnessing economic benefits,
about harnessing the benefits of movement of people, so within
the OECD there is a crying need to encourage the mobility of people,
to tap the economic benefits which that mobility brings, so perhaps
within the EU and broadly within developed countries there is
a push to make barriers of entry lower and lower. On the other
hand, immigration and immigration control in developed countries
is often about restricting access and about controlling the numbers
of people who can enter, who can work and who can live permanently
in a country and perhaps the sort of spectrum of rights and entitlements
that different nationalities enjoy in accessing the UK is testament
to that paradox. Whether there is an objective criterion or not,
I am not sure. I do not think there is any point in questioning
whether the UK immigration policy as it stands is racist or unfair.
I think on the books the UK has a very good, reasonably fair,
reasonably effective system of immigration control. Perhaps in
practice there are areas in which that could be improved. Perhaps
there are some in the community who would say that racial equality
could perhaps be better promoted by making systems of access more
equitable, but in principle I think UK immigration policies are
Q141 Chairman: They are objective
and, if I can pursue the point, you have highlighted the contradictions
or the tensions in immigration policy, but you are accepting in
fact the fact that some countries, some communities face higher
and more restrictive barriers to coming here than other countries
and that other communities may have some basis in objective problems
that the Government is trying to tackle.
Dr Sriskandarajah: Sorry, can
Q142 Chairman: For example, in practice,
if you are trying to come here from Australia or the USA, it is
much easier and you are much less likely to be challenged in any
part of the process than if you are trying to come here from,
say, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a very straightforward
question: does that disparity arise from the fact that there is
a reasonable point of view of government that the issues involved
are different or, if not, how do you explain it?
Dr Sriskandarajah: I explain it
in the sense that there are different avenues of entry to the
United Kingdom and it just seems to be the case that there are
some nationalities who have better access to some of those avenues
than others do. Perhaps we should not just disaggregate immigrants
according to nationality, but we should also go one step further
and disaggregate them according to the category of entry. Now,
if we were to take, for example, family reunion, which is a controversial
issue which has been in the headlines of late, it could, I think,
be argued that in some cases access to family reunion is much
more difficult if you come from the Democratic Republic of Congo
than if you come from the USA, though perhaps if we were to take
something like a work permit, the difference or the disparity
might be less discernible.
Sir Andrew Green: There is a basic
reason of course that from some countries immigration is in balance,
like the whole of the European Union, and from others it is not.
If I may, I would just like to widen the debate slightly because
I know you want to look at the broader issues. It seems to me
that the essential issue about this whole question of immigration
and immigration control, which you are going to move on to, is
the question of the scale of immigration, its impact and whether
the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. I think it is very important
to understand first of all the scale of it because net immigration
into this country is relatively new. It is not something that
occurred until the mid-1980s and even from 1985 to 1995, we were
only talking about 50,000 a year. That has now quadrupled to 222,000,
that is net immigration, and that to some extent lies behind public
opinion, which has been mentioned, I think, two or three times
this morning. However, there is another aspect to that which is
even more important, which is that foreign immigration is now
at 342,000. You have to look at that in comparison to what has
happened in the past. The East African Asians have always been,
I think, described as a very successful group of immigrants and
I certainly would not challenge that. They arrived over a period
of two years, 27,000, and that is a number that is now arriving
every month. It is 12 times that amount every year.
Q143 Chairman: I do not want to cut
you off too much, but we will be asking questions about the volume
of migration in a few moments, so please do not use this just
as a general rehearsal of your overall argument.
Sir Andrew Green: Well, what I
am trying to do is to set out the framework of the scale because
I think it is highly relevant, but perhaps we can bring in the
other points later.
Q144 Chairman: Yes, if we could.
I just want to pursue this issue which has come up in some of
the evidence about the two-tier system and I want to be quite
clear about the position that you take. On the question of whether,
as seems to be the case, some countries, some groups of people
face a more onerous task in getting here than others, I am not
quite clear whether your view is that the problem is the numbers
of migrants or the countries that they come from.
Sir Andrew Green: The problem
is the number of migrants and, secondly, the impact that that
is having on integration, and I would like to say more about that
later. To that extent, there is a relationship between who the
migrants are, but integration is a major problem. In terms of
the immigration system, to the extent that there is a difference,
it is because there is an objective difference, as you were pointing
out earlier. There are some countries which are sources of migrants
and some which are not and what the entry control officer has
to decide of course in his ten minutes is whether the person applying
is likely to return home or not and he will be guided by the culture,
circumstances, economy and so on of the country.
Q145 Chairman: So, to be clear, to
you the issues involved with a white Zimbabwean applying to come
here are different from the issues involved with a black Zimbabwean?
Sir Andrew Green: It is not a
question for me, it is a question for the entry control officer.
Q146 Chairman: But in terms of the
view of Migration Watch.
Sir Andrew Green: Yes, if you
are talking about the integration, yes, of course there is a difference.
Q147 Chairman: So in terms of this
issue of the two-tier system, you are arguing for a system that
applies the question about some sort of test of integratibility
to migration policy?
Sir Andrew Green: No, I am not
saying that. What I am saying is slightly different and let me
make the point in that case. If there is anything to be learned
from the events of the past year across Europe and even Australia,
it is the importance of effective integration. Now, I would say,
we would say, that that is linked to the scale of immigration,
that if you have foreign immigration of the order of a third of
a million every year, it is, I would say, virtually impossible
to integrate that number of people effectively into your society.
Q148 Chairman: We will come to the
issue of problems later, but the point I am wishing to establish
is that in your view, the view of Migration Watch, the issues
involved in a white Zimbabwean coming to this country are different
from the issues involved in a black Zimbabwean coming to this
Sir Andrew Green: It is not only
a question of black and white, but it is also the case that, as
the IPPR Report pointed out, there is a very great difference
between the performance of different nationalities in the British
economy and also the very great difference in their ability to
integrate with the British economy.
Q149 Chairman: But this is a citythe
City of London, which has a very diverse community and where there
are established, legal British citizens whose family background
is in almost every country in the world and I just find it odd
to make the assumption that certain types of people are easier
to integrate according to the country they come from than others
and I just wonder where that comes from.
Sir Andrew Green: Well, my main
point is numbers, that is the first point. Secondly, you chose
a particular case of Zimbabwe where some people have longstanding
connections with Britain and others do not, so clearly there is
a difference there, but it is a pretty minor point. The major
point is the sheer numbers that we have now reached in the immigration
Q150 Chairman: We will come back
to numbers in a moment.
Dr Sriskandarajah: Can I just
take this opportunity to clarify something that was said in our
report which was just mentioned. We did a fairly major piece of
research late in 2005 which highlighted incredible diversity in
the socioeconomic outcomes of the immigration population in the
UK. We happened to look at nationalities and how different nationalities
and countries of origin perform in the UK. We could have, if we
had the data, looked at the linguistic ability, location in the
UK, skills brought to the country, length of stay and family status.
There are a whole number of factors that are at play in affecting
and shaping the integration of an immigrant. To believe in something
which I call the `integratability fallacy', that somehow at the
point of entry or at the British post 2,000 miles away, within
11 minutes a British official can determine the likelihood that
a person will integrate effectively in the United Kingdom is at
best unhelpful and at worst deliberately misleading.
Sir Andrew Green: It is actually
completely irrelevant, as you know. The question that confronts
them is not anything to do with integration; it is whether he
will return home or not.
Q151 Mr Benyon: It is just an intellectual
exercise to say whether some particular ethnic group is more `integratable',
if there is such a word. If one starts developing migration policy
around that, then you are going down a very dangerous route. Would
Sir Andrew Green: Absolutely.
Q152 Mr Benyon: We can argue about
whether a white Zimbabwean can integrate quicker than a black
one, but that is not the point, is it?
Sir Andrew Green: It is not my
point either of course. My point is the total numbers.
Q153 Chairman: Can I just ask, going
on from this when you are talking about the actual IND process
and moving the discussion on, you said that it is critical to
improve the efficiency with which flows are managed. Can you say
a little bit more about what exactly you mean by improving efficiency
and perhaps highlight some examples of the sort of inefficiencies
that worry you at the moment?
Dr Sriskandarajah: Sure. I think
the efficiency of immigration control can be judged in a number
of ways. Perhaps the most obvious economic test of that efficiency
is whether the right migrant with the right sets of skills is
brought into the economy for the right period, to the right job
and the right place in the UK, as is economically necessary. I
think what we have had in recent years has been a fairly flexible
employer-led work permit system and, as has been pointed out before,
a rise in the number of work permit applications in the last five
to ten years is perhaps best explained by economic conditions
and labour market conditions, that we have had high growth, low
unemployment, high levels of vacancies and concurrently we have
had employers seeking to employ work permit-holders. That, to
me, is an example of a fairly flexible and efficient system which
delivers what it is supposed to. The proposals that the Home Office
has outlined in its Selective Admission document point to a slightly
more managed, explicitly tiered system which might take the UK
away from an employer-led, flexible, economic migration system
to one which has in it some bits of a points-based system in which
individuals apply to come to the UK and some parts of which are
employer-led, but with different and perhaps more conditions attached
to employers who might want to employ foreign nationals. I think
one criterion is simply whether the right people are being delivered
to the right positions in the economy and another criterion is
the ease with which applications are processed. Again it comes
back to the onerous, or otherwise, requirements of an individual.
I think the best practice examples from other parts of the world
suggest that an efficient immigration system is one that requires
little or one that establishes a fairly healthy balance in the
requirements that are imposed on applicants, employers, and sponsors
and indeed the bureaucracy. Creating paperwork for the sake of
seeming to have a coherent or robust immigration system can actually
be deeply problematic and counter-productive because, one, it
hampers the efficiency with which the immigration system can respond
to economic need and, two, it might have cost implications that
a government in power has then to justify why an immigration system
costs so much. I think an efficient system is one that also reduces
the bureaucratic burden on the various stakeholders involved.
Q154 Chairman: On the other hand,
in the Migration Watch evidence, it suggests that actually the
current system is very vulnerable to bureaucratic shortcutting,
though those are not quite the words that Migration Watch use,
but they suggest certainly that at certain times of year they
are more likely to get a visa than at other times of year, that
overseas posts will issue visas in order to meet targets for the
efficiency of the system. I do not know whether that is true or
not, but there is the one-legged roof-tiler from east Europe,
and whether or not the story is true, we have all heard of it.
I am quite interested from both of you to know how bad is the
system at delivering what we want it to do and is it bad because
the policy is wrong and the requirements are wrong or is it bad,
as Migration Watch seem to be suggesting in their evidence, because
actually there are all sorts of pressures in the system which
make it easier for the system not to deliver a proper set of controls?
Sir Andrew, have I grasped your evidence correctly on this one?
Sir Andrew Green: Yes, I think
you have. I think it is part of a wider problem. I think we have
to recognise that our border controls have been crumbling for
the last ten years and that has got much more to do with the growth
of immigration than the economic factors that we have mentioned.
There have been three major reasons for that. One was the cancellation
of embarkation controls by both governments. The second was the
growth in the illegal labour market about which almost nothing
had been done for years and, with something like two successful
prosecutions a year for the last five years, it is humorous. Thirdly,
there is the chaos in the asylum system that we all know about
and which is also down to both governments. Those three major
factors have caused our border controls to crumble. Now, to give
the Government its due, it is now putting in place, as you know,
a whole series of measures which will improve that, but not yet,
not for some five years or so. By the time they have got biometric
visas and embarkation controls and ID cards, they will get the
thing under control, but our disagreement with the Government
is that, despite the fact that the border controls are in extremely
poor condition, the Government decided to increase immigration
in various ways before it had got the borders under control. That
is what has led to these very large increases in numbers which
concern us and of course concern the electorate.
Dr Sriskandarajah: Two questions
are raised in my mind. One is: is the system as bad as many people
would have us believe? Two is: can the system ever be perfect?
I think the answer to the first is that simply yes, there are
ways in which the system of immigration control can be improved,
but on the whole the UK's immigration system, by international
standards, by historical comparison, is a good one. It delivers
in the sense that there have been large numbers of people delivered
to the labour market at a time when there was an acute need. The
asylum system has had trouble coping with the large number of
applications that we were experiencing in the late 1990s and early
2000s, but again there are systems in process for making that
system more fair and more efficient, so I do not think it is the
case that the immigration system is somehow crumbling. Can it
ever be perfect? Perhaps not. Even the countries with the longest
experience of establishing a robust set of immigration controls,
countries like New Zealand, Australia and Canada, would tell you
that it is impossible to have a system without imperfections because
you can never make clear, objective, bureaucratic, technocratic
decisions about the movement of people; there has to be subjectivity
involved and perhaps some of what we hear about imperfections
in the system relate to that subjectivity. The case of the one-legged
roofer is a classic case in my mind of perhaps those contradictions
at work. Allegedly, the one-legged roofer was allowed into the
country because there were contradictory messages being sent to
the immigration control officer. On the one hand, they were being
told that the nationality of this particular person was to be
encouraged because this was a country which soon was to accede
to membership of the EU, so why waste valuable and scarce resource
on trying to limit the movement of people from this particular
country when, 18 months down the track, they would be allowed
in anyway? On the other hand, they were being told to clamp down
on the numbers of people coming into the UK. Therefore, we should
not expect too much of our immigration control system.
Q155 Chairman: You have called for
more joined-up approaches to policy-making. If we had a more joined-up
approach across the Treasury, DWP and so on, what are the practical
changes in policy which you think would come about as a result?
Dr Sriskandarajah: I think we
need to move beyond in policy-making and public discourse from
an unhelpful focus on numbers of people coming in. Watching migration,
in my mind, is not about watching the numbers of people coming
in; it is about looking at the economic impacts, looking at the
social impacts, managing integration, managing economic dynamism
and long-term social dynamism through using migration. A more
joined-up set of public policies of migration would, I think,
move from being defensive and reactive to public opinion and towards
being much more strategic about economic requirements. Again,
if we look at countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand,
they have identified immigration not just as a way of solving
or addressing short-term labour market shortages, but rather as
trying to shape long-term population dynamics and demography,
not necessarily to answer all demographic challenges, but certainly
to shape them, so, to me, a more joined-up set of public policies
in managing migration would require far better communication between
relevant government departments, including, but not exclusively,
the Home Office, DWP, DfES, Treasury and DFID. It would require,
I think, much more long-term, strategic thinking about why the
UK needs immigration, how to manage the various channels of immigration
and making a clear distinction at least in policy terms between
short-term, economic objectives, long-term, economic and demographic
objectives, between our humanitarian objectives, our family reunion
programmes and not lumping them all together and saying, "We
are being inundated by a city the size of Birmingham".
Chairman: I promise you, Sir Andrew,
you are not being excluded on the question of numbers and we are
going to come to it in two or three questions. I am going to go
to Mr Prosser first and then you can pick up your points there.
Q156 Gwyn Prosser: Sir Andrew, you
and your organisation have spent a lot of time telling the British
public about what you describe as the "extraordinary, huge,
massive increase" in net immigration into this country over
recent years and you tend to use, in my view, terms which would
just engender fear and alarm into people's minds and into communities,
but you spend very little time addressing the fact that, for instance,
asylum input into the UK has reduced dramatically over the last
four or five years. This morning you have, I would say, compounded
your sin by telling us that our border controls are crumbling.
Sir Andrew Green: Have crumbled.
Q157 Gwyn Prosser:are crumbling,
and yet I know from where I sit in a south-east of England constituency
in Kent, Dover, that border controls have never been more robust
and never been more effective and in fact we are under criticism,
and when I say "we", I mean the Government, for being
too restrictive in the way we control our borders, so I cannot
help but detect a lack of balance between the way you describe
the situation and the way the situation actually is. I am not
going to make comparisons with the remarks you made this morning
and the effect of Enoch Powell's remarks, but, thank goodness,
in today's atmosphere, today's climate, your alarming remarks
do not cause the sort of consternation and reaction that they
did in past years. My question really is specifically about embarkation
controls. You know that the Government has a clear view to proceed
with embarkation controls within its five-year plan and that is
supported by IPPR for very practical reasons and by your own organisation.
Do you have any concerns about the counter-effects of embarkation
controls with regards to practical matters, such as delays through
major airports and major seaports?
Sir Andrew Green: Thank you. Let
me answer, first of all, your remarks, I think, about exaggerated
language or something. Last year we obtained from the Home Office
under freedom of information rules some of the emails that are
exchanged about us and I would like to read to you an email sent
by a Home Office expert to his colleagues. This is an email within
the Home Office by the expert and this is what he said: "I
have made this point many times before, but can we please stop
saying that Migration Watch migration forecasts are wrong. I have
pointed out before that Migration Watch assumptions are often
below the Government Actuary Department's high-migration scenario",
so let's be absolutely clear that we are not exaggerating in anything
we say. We are well within, indeed we stay as a matter of fact
on the Government's principal projections, not on their high one,
but on the principal one, so let's be clear about that. Secondly
Q158 Mr Winnick: Just one person,
you have mentioned, in the Home Office? Am I right?
Sir Andrew Green: He is the expert.
Q159 Mr Winnick: We will take that
as gospel truth, will we?
Sir Andrew Green: Please do because
it also happens to be true. Indeed, if I may say so, the reason
that Migration Watch has been a very effective organisation is
two-fold: one, that we have actually been setting out the truth;
and, secondly, the public have recognised it to be so, and that
needs to be borne in mind. You ask about embarkation controls
and the practical difficulties. Yes, it will be very difficult
at airports and it is not going to be easy to do, but it has to
be done if we are to restore control to our borders. I hope I
was fair in saying that there was a very severe loss of control
under two governments and that the measures proposed by this Government
should put it right. I did say that and I am trying to be even-handed.
I think it is fair to say both those things.