Immigration Statistics: The Great Lie – Labour want more ‘managed migration'. What they will not admit is that they have abandoned our borders…and immigration is now out of control.

By Sir Andrew Green, Chairman, MigrationwatchUK
© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green
The Daily Mail, London, 14 November 2003

To say I was astonished is an understatement. As I sat waiting to be interviewed on Newsnight on Wednesday, I watched David Blunkett being grilled by Jeremy Paxman - and I actually heard him say he ‘saw no obvious upper limit' to the number of legal immigrants coming to Britain .

It was an incredible statement. Mr Blunkett must have known the immigration statistics for 2002 were to be issued the following day.

These show that non-British immigration has now reached a quarter of a million a year - the highest in our history, and equivalent to the entire population of the city of Hull .

In the same year, 91,000 British citizens left the country - nearly double the number who have been leaving in recent years.

What on earth is going on? What impact is it having on our society? Where will it all end?

Let me be clear. We at MigrationWatch UK are not opposed to moderate and managed migration, but this is neither.

Immigration has gone up by two-and-a-half times since this Government took office in 1997.

When, in August 2002, Migrationwatch UK produced our estimate of two million immigrants every ten years, we were accused of exaggeration and scaremongering. It now looks as though our figure was too low.

Indeed, the Government has taken two major decisions that will add still further to future levels of immigration.

First, the enormous increase in work permits (from 40,000 to 200,000 a year) has not yet fully shown up in the figures.

Second, the decision to open our labour markets to 72 million East Europeans from the date they join the EU next May will add to the numbers still further.

The Home Office says this will lead to between 5,000 and 13,000 extra new immigrants a year. We regard that estimate as absurdly low. We would guess at 40,000 a year, but nobody really knows.

Meanwhile, ministers have made much of their so-called policy of ‘managed migration'. This is pure spin. The immigration system has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese.

To start with, nearly nine out of ten asylum seekers remain in Britain whether or not they are granted asylum. Last year, for example, 103,000 claimed asylum but only 13,000 were removed.

The other gaping hole is the large number of visitors and students who come here. Of course, they are extremely welcome - provided they leave at the end of their stay. But, incredibly, there is absolutely no check on their departure. This may explain why the Home Secretary was obliged to admit recently that he ‘hadn't a clue' how many illegal immigrants were in Britain.

Then there are the illegals who arrive in the back of a truck - 47,000 were detected last year. Nobody knows how many were undetected.

What we do know is that when they are found, they can claim asylum and are then simply sent off to register at the Home Office and claim their benefits. How can anyone call this ‘managed migration'.

The truth is the Government has lost control of our borders. It should surely reassert it before launching schemes to encourage yet more immigration.

And what is it all for? Mr Blunkett claims we need immigrants to build our economy. He does not explain why we did not need them, on any significant scale, in the previous 1,000 years of our history.

Instead, he trots out the tired claim that migrants contribute £2.5 billion each year to the Exchequer. This is thoroughly misleading. ‘Migrants' are not the same as those commonly referred to as immigrants.

Migrants, in the Home Office definition, are all those born abroad and their dependent children. That is a huge category of five million people. It includes American bankers, Japanese businessmen and others at the top of the income scale.

Obviously, such a group will contribute more than the average. But this says nothing either way about the contribution of the 250,000-plus new immigrants who arrived here last year.

Nor does the calculation recognise that most of the new arrivals are additions to our population and will therefore need new schools, hospitals, etc.

Neither, of course, does it mention that the cost of running the failed asylum system alone amounts to £2 billion a year.

Mr Blunkett's other argument, that migrants comprise 8 per cent of the population but contribute 10 per cent of GDP, falls to the same objection. The people he is talking about, as I outlined above, are not directly relevant to this argument.

The fact is that all serious studies of the overall effect of large-scale immigration indicate that it is of very little benefit to the host nation.

Of course it adds to the gross domestic product, since everybody contributes something; but it does not add significantly to GDP per head.

The effect on our society, however, is immeasurable. According to Government figures, around 75 per cent of international migrants come to London and the South-East, thus adding enormously to the strain on our public services.

This is hardly news to anyone who lives in the South. Crowded roads and packed trains are a
daily endurance.

And anyone who has recently visited an Accident & Emergency department will have found that many of those waiting are there for reasons that fall far short of an emergency. Often it is simply that they do not qualify for a GP's list but know the hospital will provide treatment.

Housing is another critical area. A leading charity reported recently that there are now 400,000 ‘sofa surfers' with nowhere of their own to live.

Yet the impact of even present levels of immigration will be to add one million to the demand for homes in England over the next 18 years over and above John Prescott's current plans for 1.4million new homes by 2016.

Which leads to the question of where all this is going. The Government has set in train a new wave of immigration that will be very difficult to reduce - especially as all those who have been granted settlement will have the right to bring in spouses and, sometimes, other relatives.

The extraordinary thing is that ministers are flying in the face of public opinion. Poll after poll shows 80 per cent of the population wish to see much tighter immigration controls.

This includes 52 per cent of the ethnic minority communities, who can see this policy is storing up trouble for us all.

Indeed, the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons reported in May that there was a risk of social unrest if the numbers were allowed to continue to increase. They were referring to asylum seekers, but the point applies more generally.

In a democracy, the public view should be respected and acted upon. Instead, the Government seems intent on boosting further our already massive levels of immigration. They do so at their peril, and ours.

Sir Andrew Green is the former British Ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia .

© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green
The Daily Mail, London , November 14, 2003