Select Committee on Home Affairs Fifth Report


4. "Not fit for purpose" was the present Home Secretary's description to us of the immigration system:

    I believe that…in the wake of the problems of mass migration that we have been facing our system is not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope; it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management, systems and processes; and we have tried to cope with this new age, if you like, with a system that has been inherited from an age that came before it. [3]

5. But what is the purpose of the immigration system in the twenty-first century?

Increasing numbers of migrants


6. As the population of the world grows, so does the number of people moving around it. Between 1980 and 2005, the world population grew from 4.4 billion to 6.5 billion, and the number of international migrants almost doubled, from 100 million to 200 million.[4] Over the next fifty years, 2.2 million migrants are predicted each year to travel to the more developed regions of the world from less developed ones over the next fifty years.[5] This is indeed, in the words of Kofi Annan, "a new migration era".[6]

7. Over the last decade, governments and intergovernmental organisations have started to refer to the need to address migration as a regional or international issue, and to "manage" rather than "control" migration. The Council of Europe has a Migration Management Strategy, the European Commission is developing a common EU immigration policy and, at Kofi Annan's suggestion, a number of interested states established a Global Commission for International Migration. Dr Khalid Koser, senior policy analyst for the Global Commission, suggested to us that "the great contradiction in migration today is that it is a global issue that people try to manage at a national level" and that "the root causes of migration are so powerful—it is about underdevelopment, disparities in demographic processes, in development, and in democracy—that to an extent…immigration control is treating the symptom rather than the cause".[7]


8. The UK—one of a large group of countries in Europe whose population is growing through both net immigration and natural increase[8]—is one of the major destinations for international migrants. The United States is projected to receive the highest number of net migrants of any country in the world in the period up to 2050 (1.1 million annually), but the UK is fourth after Germany and Canada.[9] The latest long-term assumption for net migration into the UK is 145,000 each year.[10] Until the mid-1980s more people left the UK than arrived here each year, but every year since 1994 there has been a gain in the population from net immigration:[11]

Migration into and out of the UK since 1964

9. Net migration into the UK was 223,000 in 2004, significantly higher than in previous years. This increase was mainly due to the rise in the number of people arriving to live in the UK for a period of at least twelve months, growing from 513,000 in 2003 to 582,000 in 2004, the highest on record.[12] The Office for National Statistics (ONS) explains that a major cause of the increase was the expansion of the EU in May 2004: "Net inflows of non-British EU citizens to the UK increased from 14,000 in 2003 to 74,000 in 2004. Citizens of the ten EU accession countries made up an estimated four fifths of the increase between 2003 and 2004." [13] The net inflow of non-EU citizens was nearly 150,000 in 2004.

10. The ONS also tells us that migration is typically most common among younger adults. In 2003 people aged between 15 and 44 accounted for a large majority of both immigrants (84%) and emigrants (75%). Men are more likely than women to migrate, and study or work are now the main reasons for migration. According to the ONS, in 2003 more than one quarter of all immigrants to the UK came to study here (135,000 people). More than one fifth (114,000) came for work-related reasons and had a specific job to go to.[14] Migrants are now apparently intending to stay in the UK for shorter periods than they were a decade ago. In 1995, 42% of migrants to the UK intended to stay for more than four years compared with 34% in 2004, while those intending to stay for one to two years increased from 36% in 1995 to 50% in 2004.[15]

11. As the following table[16] shows, since 1992 there has been an increase of 48% in the number of people resident in the UK who were born abroad, and an increase of 66% in the number of non-UK nationals resident here:

It is estimated that 73% (6 million) of the projected 7.2 million population growth in the UK between 2004 and 2031 will be attributable directly or indirectly to migration.[17]

12. Dr Koser suggested to us that there is a trend towards a new diversity of migrants coming to the UK from non-traditional sending countries: "looking at the data for the last few years we have had increasing numbers of people, for example, from Somalia, from Sri Lanka, from Afghanistan, so generally from war and conflict affected areas".[18]

13. The UK is not the only country with rising levels of immigration. As noted above, global migration is increasing sharply (paragraph 6). The 1.5% increase in the UK's population between 2000 and 2004 was similar to the rate of increase seen in the 25-member European Union ("EU25") as a whole (1.6%). Across the EU in recent years, inward migration has played a much bigger role than natural change in determining the extent of population growth, accounting for around 85 per cent of the total growth in the population of the EU25 between 2000 and 2004. However, the UK is unusual within Europe in having large migratory flows both into and out of the country. In 2002, the UK was one of the four EU25 countries that, between them, received 71% of the total net inflow into the EU25 area.[19]

14. In 2004, 97.2 million passengers arrived at British air and sea ports to return home, to visit the UK, or to study, work or settle here. Most of these passengers were British citizens (68.2 million), and there were also large numbers of nationals of European Economic Area (EEA) countries[20] (17 million) who can travel under European free movement law. The residual 12 million passengers were non-EEA nationals. 4 million of these passengers were from the United States, almost 1 million from Australia, and 850,000 from Canada.


15. More than half of the 12 million non-EEA passengers who were admitted to the UK in 2004 were visitors arriving for less than six months (5.7 million ordinary visitors and 1.6 million business visitors). A further 2.8 million passengers were returning after a temporary absence abroad. The next largest category of non-EEA arrivals to the UK was students (294,000 admitted in 2004), and 82,600 work permit holders, who brought with them 41,500 dependants (who are usually permitted to work in the UK as well).[21]

16. The following table[22] shows how the numbers of arrivals in different categories have changed over the last 20 years:

17. Globally, the UK is the second most popular destination for international students (12% of market share) behind only the United States (28%). According to OECD data, there were 255,233 foreign students enrolled in tertiary education enrolment in the UK in 2003, 11 per cent of all tertiary students, although Australia, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand and Belgium all reported higher proportions of foreign students in their tertiary education system.[23] China (30,690) and Greece (22,485) provided the largest numbers of foreign students in the UK in 2003. [24]

18. The number of foreign workers in the UK is rising. In 1995 there were 862,000 foreign workers in the UK, rising steadily to 1.4 million in 2003. Other western European countries also show increases in the numbers of foreign workers, although in some countries these increases are attributable to amnesties for illegal workers in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.[25]


19. Looking at grants of permanent settlement, the largest category in 2004[26] was refugees and their families (54,310, 38% of the total 144,550 grants of settlement in that year), followed by employment-related categories and their families (42,265, 29%) and family formation and reunion (34,905, 24%):

20. The trends in settlement have changed in recent years. In 2000, the largest group of people settling in the UK were those seeking family formation or reunion (42%) followed by refugees (36%) and employment-related settlement (12%). The Home Office attributes the large number of asylum-related grants of settlement in 2004 to the "Family ILR exercise" (under which families who had claimed asylum in the UK before October 2000 were granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK even if they did not meet the usual requirements for refugee status or subsidiary protection). [27]

21. The increase in settlement from 2003 to 2004 (from 141,335 to 144,550) was also due to a sharp increase in the number of nationals of countries in Europe (outside the EEA) settling here, rising by 85%. There were falls in most other nationality groups, mostly from Oceania, Africa and the Americas. [28]


22. The Global Commission on International Migration believes that migration has both welcome and unwelcome consequences: "the economic, social and cultural benefits of international migration must be more effectively realised, and…the negative consequences of cross-border movement could be better addressed".[29] There is a range of views about the economic and social impacts of migration. While there is a growing quantity of research about the former, the latter is much harder to quantify.

23. The United Nations Population Division has argued that Europe might need replacement migration to cope with shortages of working-age populations, payment of pensions, and possible shortages of both skilled and less-skilled labour, ranging from around one million to 13 million new migrants per year between 2000 and 2050.[30] This issue has been summed up as "who is going to look after granny?"[31] Others have contested such a scale of migration as being unnecessary or impractical,[32] or recognised that migration alone cannot solve these problems.[33]

24. Professor John Salt of University College London has identified the emergence of a "global migration market for skills" in the last two decades, in which the competition is for those with high levels of human expertise, and the main stimuli have come from governments and multinational employers. He cites studies which suggest that the more skilled the immigrants, the greater the economic benefit to the country. However, he adds that comprehensive information on the skill levels of migrants appears to be lacking.[34]

25. The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) published in April 2005 a study into the fiscal contribution of immigrants in the UK which confirmed the findings of an earlier Home Office study. It concluded that the relative net contribution of immigrants to public finances in the UK increased between 1999 and 2004, and that immigrants make a relatively greater net fiscal contribution than people born in the UK and have become proportionately greater net contributors to the public finances than non-immigrants. It estimated that the total revenue from immigrants grew in real terms from £33.8 billion in 1999-2000 to £41.2 billion in 2003-04, a 22% increase compared with a 6% increase from people born in the UK.[35]

26. The House of Lords European Union Committee's recent report on Economic Migration to the EU concluded that there was a broad consensus that the immigration of low-skilled and unskilled workers does not generally depress wages or take away jobs that would otherwise be done by indigenous workers, but that on the contrary economic migration tends to stimulate further economic activity and create additional jobs.[36] The social consequences of immigration were, the Committee found, more difficult to quantify:

    Unplanned immigration, as experienced with the peak arrivals of asylum seekers in the United Kingdom between 2001 and 2003, can add to problems in local communities and impose additional pressures on services; and large scale immigration, if concentrated on particular areas of the country, such as south-east England, can add to the strains on the local infrastructure. The TUC witnesses drew attention to the effect on housing, schools and health services in some rural areas where industrialised farming had developed with a need for unskilled labour without adequate planning. On the other hand, immigration brings social benefits too, providing skills that are in short supply and filling gaps in essential services like the NHS and in other sectors, such as the construction and hospitality sectors.[37]

27. The RSA[38] Migration Commission, whose chair, Professor Nigel Harris, gave evidence to us, considers that there is no relation between the numbers of people entering and leaving the country and the level of welfare of its inhabitants. It found that the growth of the high-skilled economy seems to be accompanied by a growth in demand for low-skilled labour, which cannot be met by the domestic workforce at least in the sectors it considered, and that immigration controls which exclude workers from work in the developed countries "constitute the major obstacle to the relief of poverty in developing countries". [39] Professor Harris suggested that what concerns people about immigration is the "changing social composition of the population" and that the issue here is who is admitted for long-term permanent settlement rather than those who flow through the country for short periods.[40]

28. The pressure group Migration Watch UK, however, believes that current large-scale immigration is "contrary to the interests of all sections of our community, adding to the problems of both overcrowding and integration".[41] Its chairman, Sir Andrew Green, believes that the economic advantages of immigration should be balanced against its wider economic and social costs, and that the question to be asked is: do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?[42] He pointed out that an increasing population means that more houses, schools, hospitals, roads and railways are needed.[43] He criticised the IPPR study on the economic impact of immigration and suggested that "the economic benefit in terms of the whole GDP is, frankly, trivial". Sir Andrew also countered the labour market arguments for migration by saying that "immigration satisfies demand but creates other demand", and added that "by bringing in substantial numbers of people who will work for less you are lowering wages and you are making it more difficult to get people from welfare to work, which is an important government policy".[44]

29. Following Sir Andrew's oral evidence to the Committee, the Home Office supplied us with a short paper responding to his criticisms of the original Home Office research and subsequent IPPR study.[45] Migration Watch had criticised the Home Office/IPPR work for omitting the costs of educating the UK-born dependent children of migrant parents from the calculation of the costs attributable to migration. The Home Office's response claims that to treat these children as migrants when their fiscal impact is negative (in childhood) but as being native when it is positive (in adulthood) builds a structural bias into the calculations. The Home Office also asserts that Migration Watch's most recent calculations make this bias "much worse, to the point where the results are simply meaningless". It concludes that although the Home Office paper "was never intended to be the last word on the subject", nonetheless "the latest Migration Watch paper is simply wrong, and the broad conclusions of the original Home Office study, and the subsequent IPPR paper, stand".[46]

30. The vulnerability of migrant workers to exploitation was described by numbers of witnesses, and is discussed below at (paragraph 70).

31. The link between migration and development was the subject of a report from the House of Commons International Development Committee published in July 2004.[47] The main thrust of this report was that "Migration is not a panacea for development problems, but properly managed it can deliver major benefits in terms of development and poverty reduction." A particular issue which concerned that Committee was 'brain-drain': the recruitment of foreign nurses, doctors and teachers from developing countries.[48]

32. Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, head of the Migration, Equalities and Citizenship team at the IPPR told us that "watching migration is not about watching the numbers 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".[49]

Controlling entry

33. One of the fundamental attributes of the modern sovereign state is its right to control who enters it. In this section we look briefly at how the UK has chosen to exercise this right.


34. The origins of current British immigration control lie in the 1960s. Although there have been changes on the surface since then, the underpinning structures remain the same: a rules-based system, enforced primarily through controlling entry.

35. Before 1905 there was little in the way of immigration law in the UK. Legislation to control the circumstances in which those who are not British can enter or remain in the UK has escalated since the 1960s, when the Government's imperative was to stop unwanted immigration from Commonwealth countries, regardless of labour market needs.

36. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 and its successors ended the flow of 'primary' (economic) migrants and limited 'secondary' (family) migration to the UK. There was no suggestion in Government policy that immigration could have benefits for the UK. The Immigration Act 1971, which is still the main piece of legislation in this area, is based on the same approach.

37. The immigration control system put in place by the 1971 Act consists of (1) a set of rules (primary and secondary legislation and the Immigration Rules[50]), supplemented by policy and practice guidance, which together set out who is allowed to enter or remain in the UK and (2) a set of authorities to apply these rules, whether overseas (visa applications), at the border, or in the UK (applications to stay). There is much less emphasis on dealing with people who are already in the UK in breach of the rules.


38. The primary distinction in immigration control is between people who have the right of abode in the UK and those who do not. The former (British citizens and some Commonwealth nationals) are hardly affected by immigration controls, whereas most of the latter need specific permission or "leave" from the immigration authorities to enter or remain in the UK. The various categories of leave are set out in the Immigration Rules and include for example visitor, student, working holidaymaker, spouse, and minister of religion. Only some of these categories can lead to permanent settlement (indefinite leave). Where a person is granted limited leave, it will usually include restrictions on working or claiming benefits.

39. There is a separate set of rules for nationals of European Economic Area (EEA) countries and their dependants, who benefit from European free movement rights and do not require leave if they are coming to the UK for less than three months, or if they are coming for longer to work, study or do business in the UK or as self-supporting persons (pensioners and the independently wealthy).[51] In this inquiry we have not focused on migration within the EEA under European law.

40. In some circumstances people who have no right to be in the UK or who have breached conditions of their leave may be detained or removed.


41. Immigration controls are operated overseas, at the borders and after entry to the UK by a number of different immigration authorities.

42. Overseas decisions are made by Entry Clearance Officers (ECOs) who work for UKvisas, a joint Home Office/Foreign Office unit under the umbrella of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. UKvisas has over 2000 staff, of whom around 180 work in London and the remainder overseas. In 2004-05 the costs of UKvisas were £122 million, whilst its income from visa fees amounted to £131 million.[52]

43. Border controls are staffed by Immigration Officers (IOs) in the Immigration Service which is part of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) of the Home Office. 'After-entry' decisions to stay or settle in the UK are made by IND caseworkers based in Croydon, Sheffield and Liverpool. A discrete part of the IND, called Work Permits (UK), makes decisions about work permit and other employment applications. Both IND caseworkers and IOs have important roles to play in detention and removal. Immigration policy is developed by policy teams in the IND who are separate from caseworkers and IOs.

44. Both the staff level and resource budget of the IND have increased dramatically in recent years. In 1996-97 it had a staff 5,868, but by 2004-05 there were 15,002 staff: this constituted approximately three quarters of the total Home Office core staff. Its resource budget, which was £213 million in 1996-97, rose to a peak of over £1.8 billion in 2003: even a projected reduction by 2009 will leave the budget at a level more than double the figure five years ago.[53] The IND' current net resource budget is just under £1.5 billion apportioned between the following major areas:

    Asylum. £655 million. Mostly asylum support costs, also the cost of processing asylum applications and related appeals.

    Operations. £506 million. This includes border control, including development of the e-Borders programme; enforcement and removals; and detention, including operating costs of removals centres.

    Managed Migration. Direct costs £106 million; less income of £203 million (income covers direct costs, as well as an apportionment of relevant overhead costs).

    Policy, Intelligence and Change and Reform: £86 million

    Corporate Services (including IT and accommodation costs, also non-cash costs (capital charges and depreciation)): £337 million.[54]

45. In addition there is an immigration and asylum appeals system, under which Immigration Judges review decisions made by the immigration authorities. The system comes under the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

The Government's current aims

46. In the 1990s the immigration control system came under pressure from a number of directions: increasing long-distance travel, large flows of refugees, the re-emergence of significant demand for migrant labour and an increase in casual labour.[55] Government policy moved towards a new recognition of the benefits of labour migration, coupled with a heavy emphasis on tackling abuse of asylum procedures.

47. A February 2002 White Paper, Secure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain[56] marked a radical change in direction, recognising for the first time in Government immigration policy the value of economic migration whilst projecting an increasingly tough stance on asylum. One of the themes of this paper was that these measures together would prevent the asylum route from being abused by those who want to come to the UK for purely economic reasons.

48. The rhetoric became that of 'managed migration', encompassing three classes of migrants who were to be welcomed: (1) short-term, temporary categories: visitors, business visitors and students; (2) employment categories: work-permit holders and a range of other specific categories; and (3) family categories: for marriage, or to join parents or children. A major goal was to facilitate the migration of skilled workers and innovators whose skills would benefit the British economy, but a limited need for temporary and casual low-skilled labour was also recognised.

49. Despite the policy of encouraging some types of migration, the structures of the system still remained those of the 1960s, designed to control strictly the categories of people who can enter or stay in the UK. They do not appear to be based on a recognition that large numbers of people will and should come to the UK and that new approaches may be needed to the management of migration once those people are living here.

50. The current purpose of the immigration system is set out in the February 2005 "five year strategy for asylum and immigration", entitled Controlling our borders: Making migration work for Britain.[57] This states the Government's overall strategic aim:
"Migration is managed to the benefit of the UK, while preventing abuse of the immigration laws and of the asylum system".

51. This document also set out the Government's proposals for implementing this overall aim as far as migration is concerned:

  • A transparent points system for those coming in to work or study.
  • Financial bonds for specific categories where there has been evidence of abuse, to guarantee that migrants return home.
  • An end to chain migration - no immediate or automatic right for relatives to bring in more relatives.
  • An end to appeals when applying from abroad to work or study.
  • Only skilled workers allowed to settle long-term in the UK and English language tests for everyone who wants to stay permanently.
  • Fixed penalty fines for employers for each illegal worker they employ as part of the drive against illegal working. [58]

    52. The points-based system for work and study is intended to amalgamate the current range of study and labour schemes into a more coherent series of tiers. It does not cover visitors or family categories. A consultation paper published in July 2005, entitled Selective Admission: Making migration work for Britain, added flesh to this proposal (and also added a fifth tier to the points-based system). Its stated purpose is "to admit people selectively in order to maximise the economic benefit of migration to the UK".[59] All migrants who want to work, train or study in the UK would come within the new "simplified" scheme; all those apart from investors and the highly-skilled would have to have the support of a sponsor (which could be an employer or college) and some could be asked to deposit a financial bond against departure. The paper also envisages a fully integrated immigration control being in place over the next five years including follow-up checks and electronic embarkation checks.

    53. A set of aims to implement the reforms of the consultation paper were put forward in the Home Office/DCA/UKvisas Asylum and Immigration High Level Delivery Plan 2005/06 to 2008/09. These include: "A flexible, largely self-financing, managed migration programme that meets the UK's economic needs and tackles abuse of the system" and "Significantly improved enforcement activity and removal of people living or working illegally in the UK through improved contact management and other measures."[60] This shows a recognition that more needs to be placed on dealing with migrants who are already in the UK, but its proposals on detaining, monitoring and fingerprinting mostly refer only to asylum seekers.

    54. The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, Liam Byrne MP, told us that although the strategic objectives of every part of the Home Office are being examined, he did not think those for the IND would alter greatly:

      I cannot imagine that we will be moving radically from objectives such as managing migration to the benefit of this country and ensuring that it is something that is positive for us and contributes importantly to our economic growth, but at the same time balances the need for people to come into this country with the need to keep people who live here safe, and to keep communities cohesive…I do not just think IND's job is…to stop the wrong people coming into the country. I think IND has a crucial role in ensuring that, in the interdependent world of the future, Britain has the right relationships with people.[61]

    55. The Committee recognises that modern patterns of migration pose particular challenges for the Government. We believe that facilitating travel for tourists, family members, students, businesspeople and workers who meet labour needs that cannot otherwise be met is essential to our national interests. The IND and UKvisas must offer these people a high level of service and cannot simply be organisations designed to exclude people from the country. At the same time, we share the public expectation that the Government must minimise the number of those able to abuse the immigration system.

    Illegal immigration

    56. In a world of mass migration and a country with immigration controls and a buoyant economy, it is inevitable that some of the people who come to the UK or stay here will do so illegally, especially when, as noted below (paragraphs 69 and 454), employers can be given a competitive edge by recruiting workers who are willing and able to take employment at below minimum wage and/or without social security or tax obligations or entitlements. It is important to look at the factors which might encourage illegal immigration;[62] and it is as important to understand the problems illegal immigration causes. As with any illicit activity, it is impossible to know its exact scale.


    57. In a Home Office study of randomly selected illegal migrants in detention at the beginning of 2002, nearly half of those interviewed said they had left their home country because of violence or intimidation. A quarter mentioned economic factors. (These are not mutually exclusive as multiple responses were allowed.) The most common reason given for choosing the UK rather than other destinations was its reputation for safety and human rights (cited by a quarter of those surveyed), but nearly as many mentioned job opportunities. Three-quarters had worked illegally in the UK, but hardly any had claimed benefits even when they were entitled to.[63]

    58. Professor Nigel Harris, Chairman of the RSA Migration Commission, is one of many witnesses who believed that failing to provide legal migration routes for low-skilled workers inevitably leads to illegal migration:

      It is absolutely impossible to force any government to use physical force to prevent workers moving to work, which is effectively what this is about…[Illegal migration] is what meets basic labour demand in the UK for unskilled labour because the Government does not meet it".

    He suggested for example that construction work for the Olympic Games in London will increase the level of irregular migration into Britain.[64]

    59. Dr Khalid Koser of the Global Commission for International Migration agreed to a certain extent: "It appears that we need the labour migrants in certain parts of the economy but we are not allowing them to come in a regular fashion".[65] The IND itself admits that "in agriculture and horticulture illegal activity is not uncommon", and refers to information obtained by the Temporary Labour Working Group which suggests that "illegal activity is widespread".[66]

    60. Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, gave a slightly different version of this argument:

      The reason we have such fairly substantial illegal immigration is two fold: it is that there has been no control over the labour market here, there has been no attempt to deal with the illegal—indeed often exploitative—use of labour, and the other is that because people know that they can come here and work illegally then they are prepared to pay people-smugglers to bring them over.[67]

    61. Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Association of Labour Providers, believed that most illegal workers had entered the UK legally. He told us that most of his Association's members employed nationals of the accession states, but he had the impression that significant numbers of non-EU nationals from Eastern Europe were successfully passing themselves off as EU nationals, through the use of forged documents.[68] He argued that the incentive for illegal working came from the fact that employers of illegal labour successfully avoided paying tax, thus undercutting competitors.[69]

    62. The Zimbabwe Association told us that Zimbabweans have many reasons for choosing to come to the UK but now use illegal methods or routes because of the introduction of visas in November 2002. Many are unaware of asylum procedures or of the possibilities for coming to the UK legally.[70]

    63. Some work has recently been done within IND by way of linking a policy response to illegal immigration to an understanding of its underlying causes. The IND Intelligence Service (INDIS) is currently leading on the development of a "longer-term harm reduction strategy" in line with the demand for tackling underlying problems of organised crime contained in the 2004 White Paper One Step Ahead: a 21st Century Strategy to Defeat Organised Crime.[71]


    64. "I have not the faintest idea" was the response of Dave Roberts, IND's Director of enforcement and removals, when asked how many illegal migrants there are in the UK.[72] His response was immediately seized upon by the media. It was an honest but flippant answer. Nobody knows how many illegal migrants there are.

    65. Attempts have been made to estimate this - for instance the UN Global Commission on Migration suggests that at least 5 million of Europe's 56.1 million migrants in 2000 had irregular status[73] - but these figures can only be a guess. Some data appear to show that flows of irregular migrants to Europe are decreasing.[74] A recent study for the Home Office gave a central estimate of 430,000 people in the UK illegally in 2001 (0.7% of the total UK population of 59 million, or 13% of the 3.3 million non-UK nationals living in the UK),[75] but suggested that the number could be as low as 310,000 or as high as 570,000. The study has not been updated to take account for instance of EU enlargement in 2004. Another possible indication of the extent of irregular migration comes from the Worker Registration Scheme for nationals of the new EU Member States: according to a Government report, up to a third of the 176,000 applicants to the scheme between 1 May 2004 and 31 March 2005 may have already been in the UK, perhaps seeking asylum but possibly here illegally, before 1 May 2004.[76]


    66. It is important to recognise that there are different categories of illegal migrant, as more is known about some than others and different strategies are needed for each:

    • Some illegal migrants arrive in the UK completely illicitly, having no contact with authorities of any sort.[77] They have not applied for a visa, have not had any dealings with a commercial carrier and are not checked at the border. Without a system of identity cards, this category is clearly the hardest to identify, quantify and tackle.
    • Others use fraud or forgery to come here apparently legally. Again it is almost impossible to know how many people might do this, but efforts can be and are being made to spot fraud and forgery in applications or at the border.
    • Those who have come to the UK entirely legally but overstay could be counted if the UK had embarkation controls which registered who had actually left the country and systems which flagged up those who had not left within the time they should have done. Overstayers are as hard to trace as the first category of illegal migrant. [78]
    • It should be easier to take action against people who have applied to remain in the country but whose applications or appeals have been refused, because their status is clear and their whereabouts are often known. We know the numbers of refused applications and appeals, but because of the way the statistics are compiled and the lack of embarkation controls, we do not know how many of these ultimately leave the country, either voluntarily or following enforcement action.
    • Finally there are people who are here legally but who are breaching their conditions, for instance by working or claiming benefits. The numbers in this category are impossible to establish and the difficulties of tackling it similar to the first category.


    67. There is little doubt that public perception of illegal migration is overwhelmingly negative. Sometimes this feeling extends to legal migrants too, and is associated with claims that immigration is out of control. Dr Sriskandarajah of the IPPR believed that while there were some in the UK whose concern about immigration arose from race issues, a great many were concerned about what he called the governance of immigration, feeling that the immigration system was not under control and that Britain was "a soft touch".[79] Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch told us that in his view the public were "not prepared to accept" even legal immigration and that 60% felt that their culture was under threat.[80]

    68. Dr Koser from the Global Commission told us that "it would be fairly unacceptable for any country, particularly an advanced country such as the UK, to simply say we accept that some people move in an irregular fashion and work in an irregular way". Professor Harris of the RSA Migration Committee added that the influx of illegal workers means that there can be no realistic calculation of the size of the labour force, without which managing the economy becomes very difficult.[81]

    69. Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Association of Labour Providers, argued that the existence of an "informal economy" which includes illegal workers is damaging, partly because of the loss of tax revenue (he referred to an IPPR study estimating the loss of tax revenue as a result of migrant workers in the informal economy at over £1 billion a year),[82] and partly because those who operate in the cash economy undercut those in the formal economy by anything between 30% and 50%. Many labour users are apparently unwilling to pay labour providers "anywhere near" the £6.70 an hour which the Association of Labour Providers calculates is necessary to pay the legal minimum wage and essential add-ons. In his written evidence Mr Boleat told us that in some parts of the country the strength of the competition from those evading tax apparently means that it is difficult for legitimate labour providers to operate. He referred to some food factories in East Anglia which were "staffed to a large extent by illegal workers who will run out of the factory if people thought to be tax or immigration inspectors arrive".[83]

    70. This situation creates the perfect conditions for exploitation of workers. The Transport and General Workers' Union suggests that migrant workers are employed in what they call the "3D jobs" - those that are dangerous, dehumanising and degrading. The TGW has provided numerous examples of exploitation of migrant workers, including lower rates of pay than promised or contracted; excessive deductions from pay packets for travel, accommodation and 'administration'; poor health and safety standards at work; insecure, poor and overcrowded housing; very long hours; and gangmasters allegedly triggering immigration raids the day before pay-day in order to avoid paying workers.[84]

    71. Dr JoAnn McGregor of the University of Reading gave us evidence about the problems facing Zimbabweans working illegally in the care industry in the UK, particularly with unscrupulous employers.[85]

    72. Any system of immigration control must tackle illegal migration effectively, otherwise public confidence in the system is undermined, resentment and mistrust abound and exploitation is inevitable.

    73. Although the numbers are inevitably uncertain, it is quite clear that a substantial proportion of illegal migration arises from those who originally entered the country legitimately and legally but who subsequently failed to comply with their leave. They may have been refused the right to remain or simply overstayed. As the immigration system aims, rightly, to facilitate legal migration for ever greater numbers of travellers, it is inevitable that illegal migration will continue to be fuelled by those who become illegal once in the country. This represents one of the more fundamental changes to the purpose of the immigration system in the twenty-first century. The focus can no longer remain so heavily weighted towards initial entry and border control. While these controls must be sustained and indeed improved, far greater effort will in future have to go into the enforcement of the Immigration Rules within the UK. A major test of the Government's new approach to the IND will be the extent to which it has recognised the importance and implication of this change.

    3   Q 866, 23 May 2006 Back

    4   1980: 99,275,898, 2005: 190,663,514. United Nations, Trends In Total Migrant Stock: The 2005 Revision, February 2006.  Back

    5   United Nations, World Population Prospects: the 2004 revision, February 2005  Back

    6   UNGA press release GA/10476, International migration can benefit countries of origin and destination, says Secretary-General, presenting new report to General Assembly, 6 June 2006 Back

    7   Q 105 and Q 95, 10 January 2006 Back

    8   John Salt, Current trends in international migration in Europe (Council of Europe Publishing, 2005), pp 9-10 and 19 Back

    9   United Nations, World Population Prospects: the 2004 revision, February 2005  Back

    10   Office for National Statistics, Population Trends 123, spring 2006, pp. 13-15 Back

    11   Table supplied by the House of Commons Library.Source: Office for National Statistics, International Migration Back

    12   Office for National Statistics, Population Trends 124, Summer 2006 Back

    13   Office for National Statistics, International Migration 2004, 20 April 2006 Back

    14   Office for National Statistics, International Migration, 15 December 2005 Back

    15   Office for National Statistics, International Migration 2004, 20 April 2006 Back

    16   Table supplied by the House of Commons Library.All data are extracted from the Winter Labour Force Survey (LFS) for each year.The LFS is a survey of private households, all persons resident in National Health Service accommodation and young people living away from the parental home in a student hall of residence or similar institution during term time. Therefore it is possible that the LFS may underestimate the total number of resident individuals.Furthermore, as with any statistical sample survey, estimates from the LFS are subject to sampling variability and should therefore be treated with a degree of caution. Back

    17   Office for National Statistics, Population Trends 123, Spring 2006, pp. 13-15 Back

    18   Q 99, 10 January 2006 Back

    19   Office for National Statistics, People & Migration: European context, 15 December 2005 Back

    20   The European Economic Area (EEA) consists of the EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, with a linked agreement for Switzerland Back

    21   Home Office Control of Immigration Statistics 2004.These figures are an estimate of the number of journeys rather than the number of passengers, so might count some people twice.They do not show how many people in each category are in the UK at any one time. Back

    22   Supplied by the House of Commons Library Back

    23   OECD, Education at a Glance 2005, Chart C3.2and Tables C3.1 and C3.7a Back

    24   OECD, Education at a Glance 2005, Chart C3.2 and Table C3.1 Back

    25   John Salt, Current trends in international migration in Europe (Council of Europe Publishing, 2005) p 33 andTable 12  Back

    26   excluding EEA nationals. Source: Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statisitics United Kingdom 2004, HOSB 14/05 23 August 2005, Figure 3 Back

    27   Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2004, Cm 6690, Table 2.4  Back

    28   Home Office, Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2004, Cm 6690, Table 2.5  Back

    29   Global Commission for International Migration, Migration in an Interconnected World: New directions for action, October 2005, preface Back

    30   United Nations Population Division, Replacement migration: Is it a solution to declining and ageing populations? (UN, New York, 2000) Back

    31   Professor Nigel Harris, Q 137, 10 January 2006 Back

    32   for example D Coleman and R Rowthorn, "The economic effect of immigration into the United Kingdom", Population and Development Review, vol 30 no 4, 2004, pp 579-624 Back

    33   Dr Khalid Koser, Q 107, 10 January 2006 Back

    34   John Salt, Current trends in international migration in Europe (Council of Europe Publishing, 2005) pp 44-47 Back

    35   Sriskandrajah, Cooley and Reed, Paying their way: the fiscal contribution of immigrants in the UK (IPPR, April 2005). Back

    36   House of Lords, Select Committee on European Union, Fourteenth Report of Session 2005-06, Economic Migration to the EU, HL Paper 58, paras 8-12, 33-37 and 40 Back

    37   para 40 Back

    38   Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce Back

    39   RSA Migration Commission, Migration: a Welcome Opportunity, November 2005 Back

    40   Q 118, 10 January 2006.See also Qq 122-123, 10 January 2006 Back

    41  Back

    42   Q142, 10 January 2006 Back

    43   Q 165, 10 January 2006 Back

    44   Q 179, 10 January 2006 Back

    45   Ev 391, HC 775-III Back

    46   Ibid., section 1 Back

    47   International Development Committee, Sixth Report of 2003-04, Migration and Development: How to make migration work for poverty reduction, HC 79 Back

    48   International Development Committee, First Special Report of 2004-05, Migration and Development: How to make migration work for poverty reduction: Government Response to the Committee's Sixth Report of Session 2003-04, HC 163, pp 11-13 Back

    49   Q 155, 10 January 2006 Back

    50   The latest consolidation of the Immigration Rules was in 1994 (HC 395 of 1993-94) but this version has since been subject to constant amendment. Back

    51   The EEA consists of the EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, with a linked agreement for Switzerland.  Back

    52   Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Resource Accounts 2004-05, HC 776, 19 December 2005, p29 Back

    53   Home Office Departmental Annual Reports, various years Back

    54   Ev 407, HC 775-III Back

    55   RSA Migration Commission, Migration: A Welcome Opportunity, November 2005, Annexes 1 and 2 Back

    56   Cm 5387, February 2002, para 38  Back

    57   Cm 6472 Back

    58   Home Office press notice, Controlling our borders: Making migration work for Britain. Charles Clarke sets out five year Strategy for Immigration and Asylum, 7 February 2005 Back

    59   Home Office, Selective Admission: Making migration work for Britain: A Consultation Document, July 2005, para 3 Back

    60   p. 3 Back

    61   Qq 1139-1140, 13 June 2006 Back

    62   Although we use the term "illegal" immigration, many organisations and authors prefer the adjective "irregular". Back

    63   A survey of the illegally resident population in detention in the UK, Home Office.Online report 20/05, 2005  Back

    64   Q 109 and Q 117, 10 January 2006 Back

    65   Q 107, 10 January 2006 Back

    66   Ev 279, HC 775-III Back

    67   Q 185, 10 January 2006 Back

    68   Q 745, 16 May 2006 Back

    69   Qq 751-752, 16 May 2006 Back

    70   Ev 326-9, paras 1, 5 and 9, HC 775-III Back

    71   Ev 261-3,pp. 27-31, HC 775-III Back

    72   Q 815, 16 May 2006  Back

    73   Global Commission on International Migration, Migration in an interconnected world: New directions for action, October 2005 Back

    74   John Salt, Current trends in international migration in Europe (Council of Europe Publishing, 2005) ch 9 Back

    75   Jo Woodbridge, Sizing the unauthorised (illegal) migrant population in the United Kingdom in 2001 (Home Office Online Report 29/05, 30 June 2005This report took as its starting point the foreign-born population recorded in the UK census conducted in April 2001 and then deducted an estimate of the foreign-born population here legally. The difference is an estimate of the number of unauthorised migrants in the UK. Back

    76   Accession Monitoring Report May 2004 - March 2005, a joint online Report by the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 26 May 2005 Back

    77   Bobbie Chan, an immigration caseworker, told us that "snakeheads" are now charging £25,000 to take people into the UK illegally (Q 629, 28 March 2006) Back

    78   This may be one of the largest categories of illegal migrant in the UK: Bobbie Chan, an immigration caseworker, told us that at least 40% of his clients are overstayers (Q 628, 28 March 2006). Back

    79   Qq 195-196 Back

    80   Q 177, 10 January 2006 Back

    81   Q 109, 10 January 2006 Back

    82   Institute for Public Policy Research, Irregular migration in the UK: an IPPR factfile, 31 March 2006 Back

    83   Ev 372, paras 26-28, HC 775-III Back

    84   Ev 374-6, HC 775-III Back

    85   Ev 304-5, HC 775-III and Qq 552-558, 28 March 2006 Back

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