Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

21.  Memorandum submitted by the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr)


  The ippr welcomes the Home Affairs Committee's inquiry into this important area of migration policy. Improving the efficiency with which the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) and UKvisas manage flows of people into and out of the UK is critical to meeting the overall economic and humanitarian objectives of managing migration. Ensuring that institutional structures and operational strategies are able to promote joined-up policymaking is also critical. We believe there is scope for creative measures to improve the transparency and effectiveness of the system, perhaps through the creation of an independent monitoring body. There is also a pressing need to improve statistics on the scale, nature and impact of migration into and out of the UK. Tackling irregular immigration may well require better border control measures, but the creation of formal channels for low-skilled migration together with some form of regularisation may be the most effective measures.


  1.  Immigration control is a complex and emotive issue that is a source of considerable debate in the media and amongst the general public. In light of this, the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) welcomes the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into immigration control and considers an examination of this kind to be both timely and important. Improving the efficiency with which the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) and UKvisas manage flows of people into and out of the UK is critical to meeting the overall economic and humanitarian objectives of managing migration. We acknowledge that there have been significant operational improvements in recent years but there is still scope for improving the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and fairness of immigration control.

  2.  The ippr acknowledges the recent attempts by the IND of the Home Office to develop a more coherent set of migration policies, engage with a wide range of stakeholders, and engender a more informed and balanced debate on migration issues. Our submission in response to the Home Office consultation document Selective Admission: Making Migration Work for Britain outlines our concerns around the proposed changes to the labour migration system. [92]In this submission to the Home Affairs Committee, we aim to draw together the implications of our recent research for the issues being considered into the current inquiry into immigration control.


  3.  All too often, migration policy in the UK is viewed as a specialist area focussing on the regulation and control of the movement of people in and out of the UK. Our view is that migration policies (even those aimed primarily at managing flows) cannot be effective unless adequate attention is paid to other areas of public policy to which migration is intrinsically linked (eg labour markets, social cohesion, and international development). For example, as the Home Office itself recognises in the Selective Admission consultation document, "migration makes a substantial contribution to economic growth, helps fill gaps in the labour market, including key public services such as health and education, and increases investment, innovation and entrepreneurship in the UK". The challenge for policymakers in this area is to ensure that these overlapping concerns are taken into account when designing particular policies. The critical challenge for the IND will be to ensure that its institutional structures and operational strategies are able to promote joined-up policymaking. Not only will this require effective consultation with other relevant Government departments (such as the Treasury, DWP, DTI, DFES and DFID), it will also require a conceptual framework that goes beyond "control". Indeed, drawing on ippr's previous work, [93]it is critical that migration policies go beyond admission to consider what we have termed the AEIOU of managing migration:

    Admission—who can enter and the rules of entry.

    Entitlements—the rights and services migrants have access to.

    Integration—how effectively they integrate into their host society.

    Overseas impacts—the impact movement has on sending countries.

    Undocumented migrants—those resident in the UK but living and/or working without permission.


  4.  While we do not feel in a position to comment on the operational structures of IND or UKvisas, we do believe that more needs to be done to build public confidence in the migration system. This will require operational improvements, but there may also be scope for creative measures to improve the transparency and effectiveness of the system. One such measure that we recommend is the creation of an independent body with oversight and monitoring responsibility on managed migration policies. While the Home Office would retain responsibility for migration flows, the creation of a "Managed Migration Policy Committee", perhaps functioning in a similar fashion to the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee and composed of independent members and government observers, could be a useful addition to the institutional architecture on migration. Such a body could advise on the quantity and quality of migrants required, review how the system is faring, provide advice on where improvements could be made and publish annual surveys of migration flows. The existence of such a cross-disciplinary body would not only boost the capacity to make better migration policy but also boost public confidence in the migration system. It would also encourage an understanding that a managed migration policy is about pursuing broader economic objectives rather than simply managing flows of people across borders.


  5.  As discussed in our submission to the recent Home Office consultation, we acknowledge that the proposed points-based migration system has the potential to help streamline the admissions processes for economic migrants, thereby allowing more efficient and fair outcomes. However, we believe that more could be done to ensure that the system will be responsive to economic conditions and simpler to process. For example, we are not yet persuaded that Tier 2 in the proposed system (essentially a flexible employer-led labour migration programme) should be part of the points system (the objective of which seems to be to pre-select human capital for long-term economic integration). Australia and Canada, for example, have recognised the potential for confusing individual and employer-led approaches and so operate short-term, demand-led labour migration programmes outside their points-based long-term immigration programmes. The case of health and personal care services highlights the potential confusion between individual- and employer-led approaches. Currently, a significant proportion of work permit holders work in the healthcare sector. However, the proposed system may impose more onerous admission criteria on a highly qualified nurse with several years of experience than a newly qualified doctor on the basis of a skills/earnings threshold. This could make the proposed system less responsive to labour market demand. Furthermore, the proposed system could result in significant numbers of workers who have a job offer, but are unable to take it up because they do not qualify for entry under criteria imposed by the new points system because of age, salary or the occupation is not on a shortage list. This would undermine the flexibility of the system because the resident labour market test would be rendered meaningless and, by leaving unfilled vacancies, defeat the purpose of having a managed migration system.

  6.  It is also important that any points system is sufficiently straightforward and standardized so that applicants and entry clearance officers understand it clearly. Here, we believe that the aim should be a single, unified points system. This could involve combining the proposed Tiers 1 and 2 with points awarded according to a master list of criteria such as recognised qualifications, age, English language ability, particular occupations, job offers, or offers in particular regions of the UK.


  7.  We believe that it is critical and opportune to review the collection and dissemination of migration data. Good quality statistics on the scale, nature and impact of migration into and out of the UK is crucial. Better qualitative, quantitative, embarkation and longitudinal data will be critical in promoting a more informed debate about migration and providing the evidence base needed for research and policymaking in this area. As ippr highlighted in a recent report on Britain's new immigrant communities, data collection also needs to be sufficiently nuanced to capture the incredible diversity of flows. [94]Whilst we are aware that data collection is currently under review within the Home Office, we would like to reiterate that any reform of the migration system should also be seen as an opportunity to initiate systems to collect more and better data.

  8.  There is also a need for greater transparency in the collection and publication of data. For example, the recent controversy around the existence and publication of research into the "illegal population" in the UK demonstrated the importance of handling immigration statistics in an open and transparent manner. Without a free exchange of information, it will also be difficult to establish an informed, evidence-based debate about migration management.


  9.  We believe that the ways in which migration policy affects irregular migration need to be explored in greater detail. In our view, the demand for low-skilled workers in the UK is unlikely to diminish significantly or quickly. Recent policy regarding low skilled immigration is based on the assumption that low-skilled migrant workers from outside the enlarged EU are not required. However, while the numbers of workers registering from accession countries has indeed been noteworthy, it is likely that net flows over the long-term are likely to stabilise at a much lower rate than the recent gross inflow figures suggest. There is a pressing need for workable, legal channels to meet some of the current and anticipated demand for low-skilled workers in the British economy. Without such measures, there is a risk of a vicious cycle in which unsatisfied demand for low-skill domestic workers will be met by irregular migrants, thus increasing the size of the illegal workforce, increasing exploitation and reducing the scope for effective policies. The economic, humanitarian and political reasons for doing so are perhaps even more compelling than those for managing highly skilled migration.

  10.  While we acknowledge the importance of identifying and dealing with immigration offenders, simply getting tough is unlikely to be effective in tackling irregular migration. As we have discussed elsewhere, [95]some form of regularisation may be the most humane, realistic and, in the long-term, economically effective approach. Regularisation and the implementation of formal channels for low-skilled migration is a more realistic approach than denying the need for low-skilled migrants or being overconfident about the ability to control them.


  11.  In recent years, migration has emerged as one of the most difficult and controversial areas of public policy in the UK. Given labour market conditions, public attitudes, demographic change and concerns about social cohesion, managing migration effectively is likely to remain a key challenge in years to come. In this submission we have attempted to identify ways in which `immigration control', taken in its widest context, could be made more effective and transparent. We would be happy to elaborate on any of the points made in this submission.

Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah

Head, Migration, Equalities and Citizenship Team

2 December 2005

92   92 A hardcopy of the ippr submission is enclosed [not printed] and can also be found at Back

93   93 See, for example, D. Sriskandarajah, "Outsiders on the inside: Towards socially just migration policies" in Pearce and Paxton eds. Social Justice: Building a Fairer Britain (London: Methuen, 2005). Hardcopy enclosed [not printed]Back

94   94 S Kyambi, Beyond Black and White: Mapping new immigrant communities (London: ippr, 2005). Hardcopy enclosed [not printed]Back

95   95 N Pearce & D Sriskandarajah, "Out of the shadows", The Guardian, 9 February 2005. Back

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