Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence


19.  Memorandum submitted by the Independent Race Monitor

COMMENTS ON THE IMPLICATIONS FOR RACE EQUALITY OF THE PROPOSED POINTS BASED SYSTEM IN "MAKING MIGRATION WORK FOR BRITAIN"

  This memorandum is in addition to my 2004-05 Annual report.

  1.  The consultation document, "Making Migration work for Britain" argues for simplification and transparency in the admissions process. I agree that a single system, with objective/verifiable criteria would be an improvement, particularly if it removed the subjectivity of the current system in relation to intentions. It is also necessary for the new system to be fair and non-discriminatory. I suggest that the objectives of the new system should explicitly state that it will have "no unnecessary racially adverse impact".

  2.  I accept the need for public confidence in immigration control, but this should not be the main reason for changes, as the public is generally not well-informed, and is influenced by negative media campaigns. Public opinion is also by influenced by the tone of political discussion. If politicians use language which implies that immigration is a "threat" to be "controlled", this will reinforce negative perceptions.

  3.  The wider context is missing from the proposals. The UK has long-established links with the Commonwealth and recent immigration patterns reflect these links. A fair immigration system should recognise that there are family and cultural/social links in existing ethnic minority communities with the "traditional/old" migration routes. In defining ease of integration as a criterion for the points system, diversity should be taken into account. New immigrants with family/kinship links with existing ethnic minority communities will find it easier to integrate than would new immigrants without such links. The proposals see integration as an economic phenomenon, and there is no reference to existing diversity and the role of different diverse communities in integrating newcomers.

  4.  There should be recognition of the UK's responsibilities to the developing world. Some low skilled migration must be possible for those from developing countries or from unstable regimes. If there are no routes for any legal low-skilled migration from such countries, this will encourage more clandestine migration. There is clear evidence of pressure to migrate from developing countries, for example Bangladesh and in Africa, and remittances are an important source of income, sometimes the only source, in some poor areas.

  5.  Rights to settlement should take into account social and family interests. It seems unfair and unnecessary to deny any route to settlement to Tier 3 migrants. It would have a negative impact on social cohesion as there would be no reason for these migrants to integrate. It would also undermine diversity policies.

  6.  The criteria proposed in a points-based system will affect some racial groups more than others. The specific implications for race equality for each tier are as follows:

TIER 1

  7.  It could favour migrants from western developed countries, particularly English speaking countries. They will find it easier to satisfy the educational and vocational requirements. Educational and vocational training institutions in poorer less developed countries have fewer international links and are less able to demonstrate that they meet UK equivalent standards. Criteria such as ease of integration could be interpreted mono-culturally and again would favour migrants from western developed English speaking countries.

  8.  It will be important to assess the criteria for awarding "points", for potential adverse impact and not set language levels too high. A fair transparent system for rating equivalent qualifications should be available and applicable to all applicants' countries, open to anyone, as in Australia

TIER 2

  9.  I am not in favour of auctions. The historic connotations are negative, and it gives the wrong message about immigrants—they are a purely economic, "saleable" commodity. There must be a race equality impact assessment of any criteria.

TIER 3

  10.  The proposals for a separate stream with no possibilities for settlement or of changing tiers would create a group of "guest-workers". There would be no incentive for these workers to integrate, and no incentive for employers to provide training and development. There are proposals for time-limited restrictions and compulsory remittances. This creates a group with inferior status and rights, which will not be good for community or workplace cohesion. Enforcement is always a difficult matter.

  11.  Sponsors should have positive obligations too. For example they should be required to provide induction courses on life in the UK, and on-the-job language training.

TIER 4

  12.  A test of whether the primary intention of coming to the UK is to study is subjective. Bias and cynicism in relation to applicants from high risk countries are possible. This has race equality implications because such applicants will have to satisfy a higher standard to establish their credibility.

Bonds

  13.  There is a proposal that applicants from high-risk countries with high numbers of immigration breaches should be required to deposit a bond.

  14.  If an individual is adversely affected because he or she is from a nationality with a poor immigration record, this would be unlawful discrimination. A person would be less favourably treated because of their racial group, and would not be treated on their individual merits. (See the House of Lords decision in the Prague Airport case).

  15.  It is also contrary to equal opportunities practice to have some immigrants who are marked out as a "problem" and have an added financial burden. There should be careful consideration of the race equality implications, especially if there is to be any withholding of repayment.

Systematic decision making and risk assessment

  16.  In the section on decision making reference is again made to risk assessment. The same comments apply as in paragraph 3 and 14 above. If an individual applicant is treated less favourably, for example by being refused or by having to satisfy an additional requirement, because of his or her nationality, and not considered on his or her merits, this would breach the Race Relations Act. Such discrimination could only be done through the use of ministerial authorisations. This would greatly extend their use in scope and scale, and would legitimise substantive racial discrimination. In my view this would be disproportionate and not justified by current levels of immigration abuse.

Illegal working

  17.  The race equality implications of the new penalties referred to in the consultation should be reviewed. If employers find the checks onerous some may be tempted to refuse all "foreigners" or those they perceive to be "foreign", which could result in unlawful discrimination against British ethnic minority jobseekers.

Mary Coussey

28 November 2005





 
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