Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

27.  Memorandum submitted by the Mayor of London


  The Mayor points out that net immigration to London (asylum and voluntary) is central both to the city's development, and to the process of immigration to the UK. After setting out core objectives for this policy field, the Mayor raises concerns from London's point of view about the Government's approach to immigration control, in four areas:

    —  Labour migration: The Mayor sees a risk of mismatch between Home Office proposals for a stratified points-based system, and London's needs. The Mayor proposes a simplified scheme including action to promote equality of rights for migrant workers; a flexible employer-led migration route with minimum two-year stay; and a "green card" or worker-led route.

    —  Appeals: The Mayor calls for reconsideration of provisions of the current Immigration Asylum and Nationality (IAN) Bill that would remove rights of appeal, against refusal of:

    —  worker and student visas;

    —  extension of stay for those legally in the UK.

    —  Illegal residence: Noting that some "control" measures may have the perverse effect of driving growth in London's irregular migrant population, the Mayor asks that—before introducing such measures in future—the Home Office should rigorously assess how far they may encourage illegal residence.

    —  Immigration enforcement: The current approach risks alienating migrant communities from public authorities, in particular from the police, with potentially grave consequences for race relations and community safety in London. The Mayor suggests guidelines for enforcement action that would ensure priority for social and community safety objectives, and for voluntary return; monitoring and accountability for Immigration Service arrest operations; and a review of enforcement measures to check that they do not impede police action against serious crime.


  1.  Mayor of London Ken Livingstone is responsible under the GLA Act 1999 for promoting the city's social, economic and cultural development in ways that are sustainable and help secure equality of opportunity, health and community safety for Londoners. The Mayor has made clear that in London, a city built on immigration, these duties can be properly discharged only if the Mayor can contribute to the formation of UK policy on immigration.

  2.  The Mayor therefore appreciates the opportunity to submit this statement to the Select Committee's inquiry. Immigration control is taken here to mean measures constraining UK entry or residence of any category of migrant—that is, anyone born outside the UK who lives or seeks to live in it (other than designated visitors). The way immigration rules are applied to asylum seekers thus forms part of the brief for the present statement.

  3.  Many of the points about immigration control which it summarises have been elaborated in other policy statements by the Mayor, cited here in footnotes.


  4.  Arrival of migrants from abroad is, today more than ever, a major determinant of London's social and economic development. Over the six years 1998-2003, London received around two-thirds of the UK's net inflow of migrants. This has brought a rise of roughly 100,000 per annum in its population.

  5.  Building on immigration to London in earlier decades, the net inflow of recent years means that by 2002-03 Londoners born outside the UK totalled two million people or 29% of its total resident population—and 35% of working-age population. [118]Seven out of 10 were born in poorer countries of the world. Of all migrants then in the UK who had arrived in the previous 25 years, 51% were Londoners.

  6.  Immigration is expected to play this key role in London's demographic growth through the period to 2016 projected by the Mayor's statutory London Plan. Migration policy including the control regime will thus help to shape many aspects of its development such as:

    —  growth in output and productivity of the regional economy;

    —  extent of social exclusion and poverty;

    —  equalities and race relations;

    —  health inequalities and health care;

    —  community safety;

    —  patterns of housing need;

    —  public services—both demand and capacity.


  7.  Immigration policy, including its control element, must in the Mayor's view be designed to help London and the UK achieve three basic sets of objectives:

    —  economic: enhance growth in output and productivity;

    —  social: help to promote equality of opportunity; tackle poverty and social exclusion; enhance access to public services; challenge racism, promote good race relations; and build community cohesion;

    —  international: make UK migration policy a more effective instrument of development for countries of origin.

  8.  This statement now points out aspects of the immigration control regime which must be addressed if these goals are to be fulfilled. It is taken here to include the policy package put forward by the Government as its Five Year Strategy on immigration and asylum.


  9.  The Mayor shares the Home Secretary's aim of finding an immigration regime that can realise the full economic potential of migration to the UK. But the proposed points-based system for admission to the UK for work, as set out in Selective Admission, is in the Mayor's opinion ill-adapted to achieving this aim. [119]

  10.  Firstly, the proposals could exacerbate the segmentation of London's labour market. Available information suggests this market, especially for lower-paid occupations, is split by barriers making it harder for many migrants to respond freely to vacancies city-wide according to ability and wages offered. Widespread underemployment among London's migrant workers is a key indicator of this segmentation.

  11.  Secondly the regime proposed by the Selective Admission package could seriously misjudge demand for migrant labour and its potential contribution. This is because it assumes they can be assessed centrally by a valuation method relying on simple proxies for value-added or productivity per worker, in particular wage levels. The Mayor believes this assessment can best be made where most information about it is available—that is, by the organisation with a job to be filled, in making its recruitment decision.

  12.  An admissions regime which responds poorly to the needs of London's economy poses a twofold problem. Not only would it erode economic gains from migration, but it is likely—by creating a mismatch between legal admissions and labour market demand—to encourage illegal entry to UK, with grave social consequences. Social effects may be compounded by tougher sanctions on employers who hire workers illegally resident in the UK. The Mayor urges the Government to focus instead on tackling abuse of migrant employees' rights, and on possible causes of illegal employment within the control regime itself.

  13.  The third basic weakness in the Selective Admission package lies in its treatment of time horizons for migrants. Most of the long-run benefit of labour migration will be generated by a dynamic process of interaction between newcomers and the host economy. By curtailing migrants' period of residence or denying them permanent residence, current proposals could put this key economic gain at risk.

  14.  The aim of maximising the economic potential of migration can best be pursued, the Mayor believes, by revising the proposed Selective Admission regime as follows:

    —  establish equality of rights for migrant workers, with pathways to integration;

    —  keep under review the wider impact of "high-skilled" Tier 1;

    —  merge Tier 2 ("skilled individuals with a job offer") with "low skill" Tier 3, to create a flexible employer-led migration route with minimum two-year stay;

    —  create a worker-led or "green card" migration route; and

    —  delete proposals for bonds and compulsory remittances.

  15.  The Mayor hopes the Select Committee will support this more balanced and flexible approach to labour immigration, reflecting key lessons from London's experience.


  16.  Appeals in general serve a dual purpose: firstly to guarantee justice, and secondly to raise the quality of decision-making. In the case of immigration, better and fairer decision-making in turn offers a third benefit which is crucial for London. It maintains on an orderly, legal basis the international movement of workers, students, asylum seekers and family members which (para 4-6 above) is vital to the city's long-run development.

  17. The Mayor is therefore concerned about the IAN Bill proposal (Clauses 4, 6) to end the right to appeal against refusal of permission to enter the UK for all non-asylum migrants except some dependants. Given the high rate at which UK visa decisions are overturned on appeal under current rules, [120]the withdrawal of appeal rights is likely to entail a rising rate of visa refusals for workers and students.

  18.  Besides injustice to people who may have close links with communities in the city, the Mayor believes an increased rate of exclusions would have disturbing economic implications for London:

    —  Particularly if combined with a centralised points-based system for labour migration as now proposed by the Home Office (above), more visa refusals for economic migrants could seriously disrupt the city's labour market.

    —  London's higher education sector, a significant part of the regional economy, may suffer not just though declining demand for student places but also from damage to the UK's image as world leader in university education.

  19.  Equally serious for London is the proposal (IAN Bill Clauses 1, 11) to end the right to appeal for migrants legally in the UK who are refused an extension of stay—unless they appeal from abroad. The Mayor would object to any measure imposing illegality on migrant Londoners who seek legitimately to extend their stay. Social and community implications could in the Mayor's view be extensive and damaging. Whilst acknowledging recent moves by the Government to soften these provisions, the Mayor would urge that migrants retain rights to appeal in-country against refusal by the Home Office to vary the terms of their residence permission.


  20.  The number of London's migrants who have no permission to live in the UK is unknown, but must be large. Total irregular migrant population in the UK for 2001 is tentatively put by the Home Office between 310,000 and 570,000. It is reasonable to assume London's share of this rough UK total for irregular migration was at least equal to its share of all recent UK migrants—that is, perhaps half to two-thirds. [121]

  21.  Growth in the city's irregular migrant population may, on available anecdotal information, have been substantial. Of course it is explained partly by factors underlying migration in general, from repressive foreign regimes to London's need for office cleaners. But it is probably driven also, the Mayor believes, by the UK immigration control regime itself.

  22.  Successive measures to limit migration flows or "tackle abuse" have made it more likely that migrants will end up in breach of immigration rules. The following are examples, the first two from discussion above:

    —  severe restriction on legal entry routes to the UK for "low skill" workers;

    —  removal of right to appeal when extension of leave to remain is refused (proposed in the IAN Bill);

    —  curbs on access to funding for legal advice to asylum seekers, leading to failure of well-founded claims; and

    —  attempts to enforce return on rejected asylum seekers who genuinely fear it (such as treatment of "hard cases", and Section 9 compulsion for families).

  23.  This process poses a complex threat to London's long-term development. Widespread irregular employment may damage the regional economy through exploitation and abuse, market distortions, and likely deadening effect on productivity. Denying health or housing services to irregular migrants could undermine standards for the capital as a whole. Isolating them from all state agencies poses risks to community safety (see below).

  24.  More generally, migrants struggling to get by without recourse to formal institutions will inevitably create "parallel" societies and economies outside mainstream London life. These could prove attractive to other Londoners, including UK-born young people suffering social exclusion (for example) because of race or low school attainment. In areas as diverse as under-25 employment, integrity of Census data, civic engagement, public health and gun crime, the city may pay a high price for "control" measures that turn migrants into clandestine Londoners.

  25.  The Mayor urges that before introducing such measures in future, the Home Office should rigorously assess how far they may encourage illegal residence.


  26.  Where Parliament has laid down immigration rules, it is of course expected that they will be enforced. But the Mayor has serious concerns about the way the Home Office approaches the task of detecting and removing alleged immigration offenders.

  27.  Enforcement can be humane and workable only if preceded by fair, objective processes for determining applications to live in the UK—which is one reason why appeal rights are so important. But even if the Home Office can make further progress on the quality of decision-making, the enforcement regime itself remains problematic. Information reaching the Mayor indicates that at two levels this regime risks undermining social inclusion, race relations and community safety in London.

  28.  Firstly many aspects of removals operations by the UK Immigration Service (UKIS) continue to cause distress and often anger, not just to individual "offenders" but also in communities from which they are removed. The scale of London's irregular migrant population (above) means these effects are felt widely across ethnic minorities. UKIS targeting raises a particular danger that its arrests and removals may be seen as racially discriminatory. In communities where—understandably—no distinction is drawn between UKIS and the police, removals may thus swiftly jeopardise Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) work to win their trust.

  29.  The second, more general risk arises from the increasingly far-reaching process by which Home Office agencies seek intelligence on alleged abuse of immigration rules. This in practice draws in the police; a wide range of employers; and major parts of the public sector including local authorities, NHS and Inland Revenue. Together with anxiety about the final process of removals (above), it gives migrants good grounds for shunning contact with state agencies—notably the police—even while they have valid permission to be in the UK.

  30.  This alienation from official agencies has grave implications for many aspects of social inclusion work in London, but especially for MPS efforts to tackle major crime including terrorism. It is exacerbated by growing insecurity amongst migrant communities as Government action weakens the stability of their immigration status—for example:

    —  time-limited leave to remain for refugees, facing them with sustained uncertainty as to their future in the UK; and

    —  "counter-terror" power (new IAN Bill clause, October 2005) to strip dual nationals of UK citizenship on wide grounds of "public good".

  31.   The Mayor urges the Home Office to adopt these groundrules to bring immigration enforcement into line with London's long-term needs:

    —  strategic objectives of social inclusion, good race relations and community safety must come before enforcement targets;

    —  priority must be given to voluntary over forced return; [122]

    —  where UKIS arrest operations are required, they must be subject to monitoring by bodies accountable to communities, local and regional government; and

    —  enforcement measures, including intelligence-gathering, should be reviewed by the Home Office in liaison with MPS and the GLA to ensure that they do not impede police action to deal with serious crime.

Richard Stanton

Senior Policy Officer

2 December 2005

118   118 Estimates in this paragraph from: GLA, Country of Birth and Labour Market Outcomes in London (2005) at This study distinguished between poorer or "developing" countries of origin-including the pre-2004 EU accession states-and "high-income" countries, mainly comprising the pre-2004 EU, North America, Australia and New Zealand, Japan and a few more developed states of South East Asia. Back

119   119 For fuller analysis see Selective Admission: Making Migration Work for Britain-Response from the Mayor of London (November 2005). Back

120   120 National Audit Office, Visa Entry to the United Kingdom: the Entry Clearance Operation HC367, 2003-04. Back

121   121 In 2002-03, for example, London was home to 47% of all UK migrants who had arrived after 1995 (GLA op cit 2005). Since 1998 it has received two-thirds of UK net international migration (para 4 of this statement). Back

122   122 On voluntary returns and the case for community and local monitoring, see also Mayor of London, Illegal immigration, returns and the needs of a world city: European Community Return Policy-a London perspective, Statement in evidence to European Commission Public Hearing (Brussels, 16 July 2002). Back

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