This week Sonali Gidwani investigates the immigration policies of the five main parties and how their plans might affect students.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
Immigration has played an important role in shaping many parts of modern Britain.
Thanks to immigration, London is now one of the most diverse cities on the planet
The NHS is heavily reliant on immigration, as one-third of its employees are born outside of the United Kingdom.
Todays immigrants are, generally speaking, young and mobile workers or students, and increasing numbers of them come from other parts of the European Union.
The main issues with migration is whether its forces have a wider positive or negative impact on the economy and society.
According to the BBC, 298,000 more people came to live in the UK than left in the year ending September 2014.
The most cited reason for someone to come to the UK is to work or study.
Overall, there were almost one million people either moving in or out of the UK over the course of the year.
The political party which will be voted into power will determine an immigration policy that will affect approximately 27.4 per cent of Warwick’s student population.
New immigration policies will affect students who are residents of countries outside of the UK and European Union (EU).
The current policy states that those with Tier 4 (general student) visas can study, work as sabbatical officers in their university’s student’s union (SU), and can stay on after they finish their period of study at university, provided they are sponsored by an employer within the UK.
The demands concerning the period of stay for international students is said to have caused a decline in the number of students arriving from overseas. The Economic Times, a section of The Times of India newspaper reported that the arrival of Indian students in the UK had declined by 12 per cent in 2014 due to the cost and stringent criteria of visa applications.
Suraj Srikumar, a first-year undergraduate student at the School of Engineering, said: “Over the past three years, the number of Indian students arriving each year has tremendously declined.”
Originally from Bangalore, India, Suraj added that he, “faces a problem at airports in the immigration section and the official still conducts a very strenuous questionnaire and procedure even after multiple visits and once, they said that they could not recognise my identity.”
The question of the UK’s future immigration policy currently mainly affects international students. However, some EU students are also concerned about the UK’s attitude towards remaining migrant transparency with the EU.
Mario Cuenda Garcia, a first-year undergraduate PPE student, stated: “It is a little bit annoying that the UK is not on the Schengen area.
“You can travel by plane or train anywhere in this area only with your ID card and virtually no border control. However, if you go to the UK you always need to have your passport with you.”
Mario, who is originally from Spain, added: “The worst case of stricter immigration control I could imagine for me or for any EU citizen would be the UK withdrawing from the EU, eliminating then all the ‘migration privileges’ we have.”
Hiba Ahmad, a second-year undergraduate PAIS student, said her Swedish passport saves her from unpleasant questions such as, “’random controls’ to ‘is this really your passport?’ because heaven forbid someone with my name and face should carry a legit Swedish passport.”
She commented: “policies [concerning immigration] are driven by a horrid xenophobic undertone and the fact that mainstream politicians are sort of tagging along to this type of rhetoric does indeed create a very unsafe environment for international and EU students.”
CONSERVATIVE POLICY BREAKDOWN
- Bring down net immigration to 1990s levels.
- Ensure only economic migrants who will, “bring the most value to the economy” are admitted.
- Support Labour’s Points-Based System, but also establish an annual limit for non-EU economic migrants.
- Set up a National Border Police Force with the power to stop, search, detain and arrest.
- Apply controls on migrants next time new countries join the EU.
- Enforce English language test for anyone coming to the UK to get married.
- Crack down on student visa abuse.
- Support community groups based on their effectiveness in countering poverty and deprivation rather than on the basis of ethnicity or faith.
- Improve availability of English language instruction for migrants.
THE CONSERVATIVE PLAN
According to the Conservative website, the party plans to introduce, “a new Immigration Bill to ensure our immigration system is fair to hardworking people and cracks down on those here illegally.”
The Conservatives hope that this Bill will make it easier to deport migrants that are not entitled to be in the UK, and will stop them from, “using public services that they are not entitled to and make temporary migrants contribute financially towards the NHS.”
David Cameron has also set out his long-term plan to control immigration from the EU.
It involves focusing on the skill shortage by improving education, providing record numbers of apprenticeships and fixing welfare, ensuring that nobody entering Britain can claim work benefits for the first three months, and thereafter for no longer than six months, stopping new EU jobseekers from claiming housing benefit, removing those who are not in the UK to work and fining employers up to £20,000 for every migrant they hire at below the minimum wage – that’s four times higher than the current maximum fine.
GREEN PARTY POLICY BREAKDOWN
- Remove restrictions on foreign students
- Abolish family migration rules requiring citizens to have a minimum income for their spouse to come and join them in the UK
- More rights for asylum seekers
- No preference for those with resources or desirable skills
THE GREEN PARTY PLAN
The Green party plan to replace existing British Immigration law with an Immigration law which does not discriminate directly on grounds of race, colour, religion, political belief, disability, sex or sexual orientation.
This law will be based on the principle of fair treatment of applicants rather than on excluding dishonest applicants at the cost to the honest ones.
The Greens will allow the partners, prospective partners, immediate families and prospective families of British residents to join them without excessive delays or unreasonable requirements for proof of relationship.
A person’s right to stay will not be linked to that of partners or families but will be independent. Families will not be divided by deportation unless the deportee poses a serious danger to public safety.
Finally, migrants illegally in the UK for over five years will be allowed to remain unless they pose a serious danger to public safety.
LABOUR POLICY BREAKDOWN
- Continue to tighten the newly-created points-based immigration system
- Support the new Border Agency to guard ports and airports
- Continue funding for electronic border controls to count people in and out of the country
- Expand the Migration Impacts Fund to channel money to parts of the country which take in the most migrants
- Introduce compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals
- Continue to force employers to advertise skilled vacancies in job centres four weeks before appointing a skilled immigrant from outside the EU
- Ensure migrants pass a tough English test before they arrive
- Break the automatic link between staying in the UK for a set period and being able to settle or gain citizenship.
THE LABOUR PLAN
Labour pledges to control immigration by enforcing stronger border controls, making it easier to deport foreign criminals and check who is moving in and out of the country.
The Labour website also claims that the party aims to implement a smarter system of controls, so that they, “get the top talent and investment we need, whilst controlling low skilled migration.”
Under a Labour government employers will face a new law that prevents them from exploiting immigrants with unfair wages, and banning agencies from recruiting only from abroad, as well as banning immigrants from claiming benefits until they have stayed and worked in the UK for two years.
LIB DEM POLICY BREAKDOWN
- Create a National Border Force with police powers and reintroduce exit checks at all ports
- Assess the needs and resources of UK regions as part of a points-based immigration scheme
- Support a common EU asylum policy
- Allow asylum seekers to work
- End the detention of children in immigration detention centres
- Increase cost to business of work permits for immigrant employees to pay for training British workers
- Create an “earned route” to citizenship for illegal migrants who have been in the UK for 10 years, have no criminal record and speak English
- Review social housing allocation policies to ensure fair treatment
- Establish Independent Asylum Agency to improve decision making, and cut appeals
- Introduce “name blanking” policy on job applications to cut discrimination.
THE LIB DEM PLAN
The Lib Dems website states that it will bring back exit checks to keep track of who is leaving the country in order to identify people who are overstaying their visa.
They also claim that they are rebuilding trust in the immigration system, as they have “helped cut immigration by a third and ensured that highly-skilled immigrants can help us build a stronger economy.” They claim to have, “ended Labour’s disgraceful practice of routinely detaining innocent children for immigration purposes.”
In his immigration speech, Nick Clegg stated that the period for claiming out-of-work benefits, “will be reduced to threee months unless you have a realistic prospect of finding a job.
“We have also made it impossible for newly arrived migrants to leapfrog local people patiently queuing for social housing – you will have to live in an area for two years before you can be added to the list.”
Mr. Clegg added: “From next year we are going to extend the notice period for all couples seeking to marry or enter into a civil partnership from 15 to 28 days. And when someone rings the alarm we will be able to pause proceedings for 70 days while the Home Office investigates.”
UKIP POLICY BREAKDOWN
- Points system used to select migrants with skills and attributes needed to work in the country
- Set up a Migration Control Commission to control numbers moving to Britain
- Extra 2,500 border staff
- Five year wait before migrants can claim benefits
THE UKIP PLAN
UKIP plan to leave the EU and, “take back control of our borders”. However, they do plan to allow work permits in order to fill skill shortages in the national job market.
The party will ensure that EU citizens are subject to the existing points-based system for time-limited work permits, so that they face similar rules to those coming to work from outside the EU.
Further to this, their website states that, “those coming to work in the UK must have a job to go to, must speak English, must have accommodation agreed prior to their arrival, and must have NHS-approved health insurance.”
UKIP’s immigration policy states that migrants will only be eligible for benefits after paying tax and national insurance for five years, and will only be eligible for permanent residence after ten years.
Finally, UKIP promises to, “Reinstate the primary purpose rule for bringing foreign spouses and children to the UK”, as well as not offering amnesty for illegal immigrants or those gaining British citizenship through fraud.
They claim that they will, “return to the principles of the UN Convention of Refugees which serves to protect the most vulnerable.”