28. Memorandum submitted by Migration
1. The Home Affairs Committee has requested
responses to a wide range of topics under the general heading
of "immigration control". In this paper Migration Watch
UK concentrates specifically on the pressures on the entry clearance
2. Currently the UK has no embarkation controls
of any sort. This, and the relative ease of gaining employment
in the "black economy" in the UK, mean that the system
for issuing visas is critical in ensuring that the visa applicants
are genuine, that they have a valid reason for coming to the UK
and that they will be likely to leave the UK at the end of their
3. Demand for visas rose by an annual average
of 5% in the 1990s. In
2002 it increased by 9% over 2001 and in the last two years it
has increased by nearly 15% per year. Over the last four years,
taken together, visa applications for entry to the UK have increased
by 43%, as demonstrated by the following graph:
4. The increase in applications has been
across all the main visa categories with visitor visa applications
increasing by 43% over this period in line with the overall increase.
The increase has been even more marked for work permits and student
applications. The former has more than doubled over this four
year period (from 38,700 to 87,000 applications) and the latter
has increased by over 80% (from 152,000 to 276,000 applications).
5. The largest increases in applications
have come from Southern Africa (up 122% over the four years from
38,000 applications to 84,000), Equatorial Africa (up 73% from
233,000 to 403,000) and South Asia (up 58% from 389,000 to 614,000).
7. We conclude that:
The very rapid increase in visa applications
to the UK from throughout the developing world has arisen because
the government has given a very clear impression that the UK is
a country of immigration and because the post-entry controls on
visitors and migrants are virtually non-existent (and are known
to be so). The absence of embarkation controls is an additional
incentive to overstay. Futhermore, the large number of illegal
immigrants already in the UK, many of them working illegally,
acts as an incentive to others.
The entry control system is under
enormous pressure through the sheer number of applicants and,
particularly, the massive expansion in applications in recent
years. Since October 2000, a visa has conferred the right to enter
the UK. It
is therefore essential that the visa system should be robust.
Unfortunately, the pressure of applications has led many posts
to consider that meeting processing targets takes precedence over
effective immigration control. In
this context it should be noted that a negative decision takes
far longer to implement as a written case must be assembled that
will stand up to a possible appeal. The Independent Monitor has
pointed out that there can be a much higher refusal rate in the
low season. This
suggests that standards have to be lowered in peak periods to
get through the numbers involved.
The result is that in some posts
the number of "tier one"
grants is surprisingly high. In Pakistan, a source country of
significant immigration, in 2003-04 about 72,000 applications
were dealt with at tier one. In Algeria, a country of security
concern, it was above 50% in the same year. The
pressure from the management is to take "pragmatic decisions".
If they lead to additions to the illegal population in the UK
they don't show up in the system whereas visa delays do.
The system is further weakened by
the almost complete lack of feedback since the absence of embarkation
controls means that there is no means by which a post can judge
whether it is getting its decisions right.
8. The inescapable conclusion is that the
government have talked up Britain as a country of immigration
before restoring embarkation controls which are vital for an effective
visa and immigration system. The result is to be seen in the burgeoning
illegal population which the government itself put at approaching
half a million in 2001. If subsequent failed asylum seekers are
added the total is probably closer to three quarters of a million.
8 December 2005
123 123 UKvisas Annual Review 2000-01 page 7. Back
124 NAO Report Visa Entry to the UK para 2.3. Back
125 Ibid Executive Summary para 15. Back
126 Independent Monitor's Report 2003 para 25. Back
127 Tier One involves only a brief interview at the counter, usually
by a locally engaged member of staff. Back
128 UKvisas-Entry Clearance Statistics 2003-04. Back
129 Migration Watch Briefing paper 9.15. Back