In this article, Sophie Barrett-Brown and Miglena Ilieva of Laura Devine discuss attitudes to immigration in Britain, and how the Conservative Party has failed to enforce their reductions
Recent Ipsos Mori polls suggesting that attitudes to immigration in Britain are softening could not have been more timely. As the Conservative Party prepares to choose the country’s next leader, the shift in attitudes marks an end to Theresa May’s legacy of attempting – and failing – to reduce net migration figures arbitrarily to the ‘tens of thousands’ as well as creating the now widely-known ‘hostile environment’ policy.
While the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid has preferred to refer to ‘sustainable levels of net migration’ and the ‘compliant environment’, it seems clear that the UK is becoming less anxious about immigration.
It is notable that this shift in social attitudes has occurred while free movement remains very much intact and when there have been no significant changes to the current immigration system. Moreover, the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that net migration to the UK has remained largely stable since the second half of 2016, when attitudes towards immigration were comparatively more hostile, with immigration being one of the top reasons why people voted to leave the European Union.
Fewer EU migrants moving to the UK for work
Whilst net migration remains positive overall, EU net migration has been in steady decline since the referendum. In particular, the latest figures show that more nationals from the EU10 countries (including Poland – the largest source country of EU nationals in the UK), are continuing to leave the UK than arriving. As we have observed since 2016, the declining trend in EU migration reflects the personal choice of EU migrants, not the impact of any legal or policy changes; the UK is seen by EU nationals as a less desirable place to live, work and do business.
EU net migration has been in steady decline since the referendum
Of course there are also various other push and pull factors attracting EU nationals to return to, or remain in, other member states: the economies of many of these member states are growing, with higher levels of employment, wage growth and increased foreign investment, in contrast with the lower relative value of the pound and the UK’s crippling uncertainty around Brexit.
Non-EU migration impact
With the continued uncertainty around Brexit and declining EU migration, it is little wonder that statistics show that businesses are increasingly turning to migrants from outside the EU, via the Tier 2 sponsorship route to fill skills gaps in the UK. Latest Home Office figures demonstrate a 15% increase in the issue of Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship for skilled non-EU workers, with a particularly marked increase in the use of Tier 2 by the health and social care sector (up 62% in the year ending March 2019).
businesses are increasingly turning to migrants from outside the EU
However, with upfront costs for a typical 5-year sponsorship of a non-EU worker with a spouse and 2 children reaching over £18,000 in Home Office application fees and associated charges alone, in addition to meeting the minimum salary requirement (currently at least £30,000), small and medium-sized British businesses that are being disproportionately impacted, particularly those outside London and in certain industries.
Sectors such as manufacturing, social care, health, hospitality, leisure, and construction all rely heavily upon migrant talent, but can little afford the substantial costs of the Tier 2 system. Further, a significant proportion of their skilled workforce is not recognised as sufficiently ‘highly-skilled’ to qualify under the current Tier 2 regime which only permits certain degree-level roles. It is anticipated that services such as caring for the elderly or disabled, infrastructure, and food service, will continue to face skill shortages until at least the introduction of the new immigration system from 2021.
New immigration system
The main work route proposed in the government’s white paper is expected to remain similar to the current Tier 2 arrangements, with a number of modifications – including a reduction in the minimum skills threshold from RFQ 6 (degree level) to RFQ3 (A-level equivalent). Whilst such proposals are welcome and necessary, with no corresponding reduction in minimum salary thresholds (or fees) proposed, the route is likely to remain inaccessible to many employers experiencing skills shortages in the wake of Brexit – and again hardest hitting SME’s, certain sectors and regional businesses.
the route is likely to remain inaccessible to many employers experiencing skills shortages in the wake of Brexit
There is also a provision for lower-skilled migration in a new immigration category which will allow migrants leave of up to 12 months with no option to extend. As it often takes several months before an employee is fully trained in a job, many employers are expressing concerns that such short term arrangements are inadequate and insufficient in tackling the growing skills shortages and do not support the integration of such workers. There is currently a consultation and businesses are encouraged to make their views known.
Investors and Entrepreneurs
Despite the Brexit deadlock, the UK continues to attract significant interest from high net worth migrants under the Tier 1 Investor route, which allows individuals to move to the UK based on an investment of at least £2 million. This enables successful applicants to live in the UK without having to work (but being free to do so) and to potentially settle within two or three years of entering the route under its accelerated settlement provisions for those investing a minimum of £10 million or £5 million respectively.
The latest Home Office statistics show that Tier 1 Investor numbers continue to increase, reaching their highest levels since 2014 (when the investment sum required doubled from £1 million and applicant numbers plummeted) and remain dominated by applicants from China. This trend is expected to continue, particularly in light of the recent removal of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category (requiring £200,000 investment and job creation in a UK business) which will inevitably displace more affluent applicants into the Tier 1 Investor route.
The Home Office has replaced Tier 1 Entrepreneur with the new Innovator category, requiring endorsement from a limited number of ‘Endorsing Bodies’, the vast majority of which are tech-focused and operate closed schemes only open to applicants already participating in their accelerator programmes (and often requiring applicant to cede equity). Whilst some will certainly benefit from the scheme, many excellent business will be lost to the UK (particularly those of more established entrepreneurs) due to the much more limited scope of the replacement category.
There have long been calls for international students to be removed from the net migration data, however, they continue to contribute to the overall figures. The latest data shows that, like investors, non-EU students continue to view the UK as an attractive destination: 211,000 people arrived to carry out long-term study (predominantly at university level) – the highest recorded number since 2011.
So what next for the net migration target?
None of the current candidates to lead the Conservative Party has expressed an outward view of whether they will continue to stick to a specific figure. Given that last quarter’s data was the 37th time the government failed to deliver on its promise to bring net migration to the tens of thousands and with societal attitudes towards immigration turning the tide, now is the time to abandon this arbitrary figure once and for all and to instead focus on creating an open, inclusive and fair immigration system to best serve the country in a post-Brexit world.
Original Article available here: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/uk-immigration/67120/
Jonathan Thomas outlines four key lessons from recent history to illuminate the potential consequences of the government’s proposed immigration system. He concludes that the ending of freedom of movement represents the start of a significant new challenge for the UK in managing not only immigration, but also the public’s concerns over it.
With the ending of freedom of movement to the UK, the government’s White Paper proposals for the post-Brexit immigration system look to take back control – and to the future. But looking backward can be instructive. Taking a historical approach to the potential consequences of ending freedom of movement can help to illuminate the challenges, and indeed risks, of the UK’s plotted course.
The UK has its own history with ending freedom of movement, with the case of Commonwealth citizens in the 1960s. And examples abound of countries that, as the UK is now proposing, have tried to manage immigration through temporary stay regimes. Most instructive of all though may be the United States’ experience in seeking to regulate immigration from Mexico. Across a 70-year period US immigration policy has ranged from allowing relatively free, but temporary, movement for work, to total prohibition of such, accompanied throughout by a fluctuating enforcement approach. Across these examples, the consequences were often unexpected, sometimes counterintuitive, but all instructive as to how immigration policies can have a profound and lasting impact on a nation. From these experiences one can identify four key lessons for UK policymakers.
First is that greater immigration restrictions on well-established existing immigration flows can lead to an increased permanent lawful immigrant population, even if immigration flows themselves reduce. For those immigrants already in-country, increased immigration restrictions combined with a one-time offer to stay to those already here can convert some of what would have been circular migration into permanent stay. And for those immigrants not yet here, the UK’s current proposals pair greater restrictions on EU immigrants with easing of restrictions on non-EU immigrants, who compared with EU citizens have tended towards greater permanence once in the UK. So, while new flows from the EU will be curtailed, placing immigration restrictions on an existing labour immigration route, which many used on a circulatory basis, may cause migrants to switch into other routes into the UK which may actually favour more permanent settlement.
Second is that greater immigration restrictions applied to well-established existing immigration flows can lead to increased irregular migrant (overseas citizens who enter, stay and/or work without lawful permission) entry. The UK will remain open to visitors, tourists, workers and students from the EU. EU migrants will not be irregular as such on entry, but may become so through overstaying. This cannot therefore be effectively controlled at the border. The White Paper proposes temporary immigration routes to help business adjust to living without EU lower-skilled labour without resorting to irregular workers. But history suggests that temporary routes, unless rigorously enforced, themselves incentivise irregularity.
Third is that greater immigration restrictions applied to well-established existing immigration flows can lead to increased irregular immigrant stay, and therefore an increased irregular immigrant population. Immigration enforcement dynamics pose a particular challenge for the UK, seeking to restrict a long-established migration flow in circumstances where it will not meaningfully be able to control that flow on initial entry at the border, and reliant instead on in-country controls. The ‘hostile environment’ approach has significant limitations on the extent to which migrants no longer permitted to be in the UK can be practically controlled, in the sense of identified and tracked. The UK’s increasingly effective border control regime might actually compound the problem, incentivising migrants who become irregular to stay put, knowing their chances of re-entry, should they depart for a period, are increasingly slim.
The size of the irregular migrant population in the UK will also be more directly impacted by the consequences of Brexit. In the laissez-faire form applied in the UK, EU freedom of movement allowed a fluid immigration status, with few questions asked. No more. The one-off Settlement Scheme for those EU citizens already in the UK will instead set in stone their immigration status. And for those who for whatever reason are not able to access settled status, the status of being irregular in the UK will become more impactful to the migrant, more visible to society; greater immigration control may therefore paradoxically give the impression of the opposite.
Finally, an increasingly visible irregular immigrant population, accompanied by increased immigration enforcement, can give rise to greater public concern over immigration even where immigrant flows are reducing. Look at the US. Largely due to EU freedom of movement, the UK has had the luxury of not having to seriously grapple with irregular immigration. This is now coming to an end. Given UK public attitudes towards irregular migration, any spike in concern over this will likely be a deeply uncomfortable experience for politicians and the public alike. Media interest in irregular migration that has largely lain dormant during the EU immigration debate may well be reawakened.
This will focus attention on the practical challenges in the UK of achieving realistic and scalable in-country immigration controls. An even more hostile environment? A local area registration regime? A population-wide ID card scheme? Periodic ‘earned regularisations’ of status? Will any such measures assuage public concern over immigration or have quite the opposite effect?
The ending of EU freedom of movement thus heralds a challenging new era for the UK in managing immigration and the public’s reaction to it. And the White Paper only sets out the baseline; the policy which the UK will adopt in isolation, but with the possibility that trade deals may result in less controlled access to the UK for certain countries’ citizens.
The government needs to design its policy inputs accordingly, but also think about how to best manage the outputs. It should inject a dose of honest realism, coming clean about the complexities and unintended consequences of immigration policy, about the control that it does have, but also the practical limits to that control. It must also be honest about the trade-offs: it may not be realistic to have the degree of control over immigration that many people in the UK say they want, while at the same time keeping other aspects of society as those same people say they would like them.
Note: read the full report on which the above draws here.
Original Article available here: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/immigration-policy-history-lessons/
The Home Office is undertaking a year-long engagement programme around the future skills-based immigration system.
The Home Office has today (Monday 17 June) published membership detailsof 5 advisory groups, established to deepen engagement between government and industry as the future skills-based immigration system is developed.
The department is undertaking a year-long engagement programme to hear the views of communities and gather expertise from businesses across the UK.
Over 100 events have been held since the start of the year, reaching almost 1,500 stakeholders.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said:
I’ve already met hundreds of people and businesses to make sure our future immigration system works for every part of the UK.
Our advisory groups will provide invaluable expertise and representing the views of businesses, employers and vulnerable people.
We are delivering on the referendum result by ending free movement and establishing a system to designed to attract talent to the UK, not based on where people are from.
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:
As we leave the EU, getting the new immigration system right is a high priority for businesses.
Employers have welcomed this opportunity to provide extra evidence to the Home Office, to help design an immigration system which both restores public confidence and meets the needs of our economy.
These sessions have been frank and constructive, and we hope the detailed feedback provided is reflected in final details of the new system.
The 5 groups are:
- Employers’ Advisory Group – consisting of groups representing major employers across the UK
- Education Sector Advisory Group – made up of groups representing universities and colleges
- Crossing the Border Advisory Group – composed of organisations representing the aviation, maritime and rail sectors
- National Advisory Group – consisting of groups representing organisations from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
- Vulnerability Advisory Group – made up of organisations representing vulnerable individuals
The new immigration and borders system will be implemented in a phased approach from 2021.
Proposals include scrapping the annual cap on the number of visas issued for skilled workers and widening the skills threshold to include people with qualifications equivalent of A levels.
The new skills-based system will also remove the resident labour market test for high-skilled workers and introduce a route for temporary workers at any skills from low-risk countries, allowing them to come to the UK for a maximum of 12 months.
Full details are available in the government’s White Paper.
Original article available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-publishes-details-of-immigration-advisory-groups
A sobering selection of real-life tales illustrate the maddening network of rules and regulations that applicants to remain in the UK must navigate
Who Should Get to Stay in the UK (BBC Two) was not, alas, an amusing parlour game allowing one to strike through the names of those who are already here and whom one would prefer to kick out. (I have a list to hand, running from close family members, through personal nemeses, on to anyone mounting a leadership challenge and ending with all homeopaths.) It was the rather more sobering consideration of who, out of the 700,000 people from outside the EU who apply to remain here every year, the Home Office – operating via a network of rules and regulations so byzantine and in such constant flux that experts in the field describe themselves as “unsure of the law on any given day” – deems fit to stay.
The opening episode (the first of three) focused on four representatives of the main routes in. Valeriya, a 27-year-old Russian on her fifth student visa, has been given £200,000 from her father (“We are millionaires, not billionaires”) to start her own fashion business in order to qualify for an entrepreneur’s visa. Thirty-year-old Rashed developed Crohn’s disease while he was here as a student and has now outstayed his visa by five years while being treated on the NHS (for free, although this is technically in contravention of current rules). He has been refused leave to stay and is appealing on humanitarian grounds, because if he returns to his native Bangladesh he will not be able to access the treatments that keep him alive. Dillian, from Trinidad and Tobago, has already been shot once because of his status as a known gay man and is applying for asylum here. Ajmal is Scottish and applying for work visas for three Indian chefs who have the expertise he needs to expand his high-end restaurant and takeaway business.
The frustrations are legion. If, as the CEO of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants Satbir Singh notes, the question of who is allowed in, is as often as not, an economic one, why is Ajmal hamstrung in his efforts to recruit three people who would, in effect, create more than 50 local jobs? He has tried for three years to find people with the requisite skills within the UK, but is barred from looking elsewhere because, although chefs are on the list of workers of whom we have a recognised shortage, anyone having anything to do with takeaway food is not. “Current legislation is … restrictive sometimes to the point of absurdity,” says his lawyer delicately. “All I’m looking for,” says Ajmal, speaking for anyone dealing with bureaucracy, “is a basic measure of common sense.”
Sometimes it is the clients who make life difficult for themselves. Valeriya can’t put a workable business plan together and Dillian (“A bit of a Walter Mitty character,” his lawyer says wearily) can’t stop overcomplicating his life story and distracting from the fact of his shooting and assured persecution if he is sent home.
But whatever the apparent factors in these decisions, the programme’s weaving together of personal stories and expert commentary gradually shows the more intangible mechanisms at work. Access to the UK depends on a strange brew of political expediency (who is the government pandering to and when); racism (in all its myriad and subtle hues, staining every layer of society and the institutions guarding and shaping it); economic considerations (including the duty to protect finite resources against chancers, so that they are there for the people who fund them); and human compassion. The brew’s toxicity rises and falls according to which elements are in the ascendant.
At the same time, the show made points rarely heard in mainstream discussions of immigration. Barrister Colin Yeo noted that the dominant narrative is of immigrants gobbling up an unfair share of some notional national pie, when what they actually do is increase the size of the pie itself. Others pointed out that there is no equivalent to the presumption of innocence in immigration law; each case stands on its own merits and is subject to laws so complex that how they are applied often looks like no more than whim.
Among the subjects here, justice appeared to be largely done in the end. Rashed and Dillian are staying. The Migration Advisory Committee showed a small measure of common sense and advised removal of the takeaway restriction. And Valeriya is waiting to hear if the Home Office reckons the UK needs another fledgling fashion business from someone with a lot of clothes but no plan. Rashed has had further surgery since filming, which suggests a death sentence was indeed averted. Sip your brew and wonder what it cost to save him, or what it would have cost us to send him back to die.
Original article available here: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jun/13/who-should-get-to-stay-in-the-uk-review-immigration
Something remarkable appears to be happening when it comes to public concern about immigration – British attitudes appear to be undergoing a turnaround.
Where once immigration was seen as the biggest problem for the UK, a negative force on national life, now it barely registers on the list of voter concerns, with polls suggesting increasing numbers believe it has had a positive impact on Britain.
For Emilia Koziol-Wisniewski, one of the first Polish workers to come to the UK after EU expansion 15 years ago, the 2016 referendum result was a low point.
“After the referendum, I was crying for days because we moved here to make our life here. Our home is here,” Emilia told me.
Emilia started a successful Polish food business with a factory in the small Herefordshire village of Marden.
But since the Brexit referendum campaign, she says, she has experienced abuse and racism.
“The comments were just vile, ‘Deport them’, ‘Get rid of them’,” Emilia tells me. “I think the Brexit referendum empowered people to say certain things.”
In February, Marden Parish Council had to make a public apology for a racist remark directed at the local Poles by one councillor during a meeting.
All the parish councillors have since undergone equality and diversity training.
But there are increasing signs of another, more positive, point of view on immigration in Marden.
“On the one hand, after the referendum, we had people who would be nasty in their comments.
“And then we would have people who would come to us and say, ‘It’s not in my name. I do apologise on behalf of my nation. I welcome you here,'” says Emilia.
Parish clerk Alison Sutton says the village has many residents originally from other countries “who live harmoniously in a large rural parish”.
She describes the racist remark as an isolated comment “which, whilst misguided, was meant as a compliment about Emilia’s entrepreneurship and hard work”.
In April, a regular Ipsos Mori survey for the BBC’s Crossing Divides season found immigration was a concern for 11% of people – the lowest level since 2001.
While in March, an earlier Ipsos Mori poll for the season – which focuses on bringing people together in a fragmented world – found that British adults expressing positive views about immigration’s impact outnumbered those with negative views.
The subject of immigration was not a big focus in the recent European elections.
That may be because political parties recognised how anxiety has dropped away.
So, what has happened? If the Brexit debate gave voice to the cultural anxiety of communities unused to foreign arrivals, there has been an even greater shift in attitudes in the other direction.
As the arrivals of the past 15 years have integrated, so general concerns about immigration have subsided.
Hostility ‘dying away’
Police had reported a spike in race hate crimes in Herefordshire, and in 2012 and 2013, Welcome to Hereford road signs were defaced to read “Poland”.
Marden is also home to Britain’s largest strawberry farmer, S&A Produce, which employs about 1,500 Eastern Europeans to help pick 8,000 tonnes of fruit each year.
The migrant workers in Marden are housed in a caravan park behind high hedges, but there are now efforts to encourage integration with the local community.
“We should start to refer to people as guest workers rather than economic migrants because as guests of our business they’re helping to make us a success and make the community a success,” says group managing director Peter Judge.
“We look to engage our staff to help in the local communities. Our workers refurbished a cricket pavilion and they volunteered to do this freely because they value being part of a community.”
The strawberry farm has invited a local English language teacher, Hugh Morris, to help migrant workers integrate into the British way of life.
“I sense there’s a tilting point where we’ve actually become more accepting,” Hugh suggests.
“We’re assimilating Eastern European workers into the community and it’s important that this continues. In the beginning there was a lot of hostility but now that’s died away.”
Hereford council has also decided to act to reduce local anxiety about EU migrants. It recently forged a twinning relationship with the Polish town of Jaworzno, and is working with local schools to remind people how the area was home to many Polish servicemen during World War Two.
“We feel that it is really important that we keep that friendship and the link going because we’re living in uncertain times when nobody knows what’s going to happen down the line,” Mayor Kath Hey says. “The little bits we can do within the city are fostering that real sense of community.”
That sense of shared community is vital to reducing tensions.
If foreign arrivals fail to assimilate, they will remain outsiders.
That is why there is some concern at government plans to require all but high-earning migrants to leave within a year of arriving, making it unlikely foreign arrivals will put down roots and integrate.
The lesson from Herefordshire is that the key to cohesion is for people from all backgrounds to meet and to mix.
Original article available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48545143
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its review of the shortage occupation list (SOL) today, adding veterinarians, web designers and architects.
Today the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its review of the shortage occupation list (SOL). Alongside some occupations which have been added to the list – veterinarians, web designers and architects – many have been expanded to include all roles within that occupation.
This means the SOL will cover around 9% of jobs in the labour market, compared to one per cent under the previous list.
The committee has recommended broadening the SOL to include all roles in occupations such as medical practitioners, nurses, programmers and software development professionals. This recognises the increasing difficulty in filling such roles.
The MAC was asked to consider the addition of Northern Irish and Welsh SOLs to the existing UK list and Scotland-only SOL. In principle, the MACagrees that devolved SOLs should be created.
The MAC also recommends a review of what role the SOL would play in a future immigration system.
MAC Chair Professor Alan Manning said:
Today’s labour market is very different to the one we reviewed when the last SOL was published in 2013. Unemployment is lower and employers in various industries are facing difficulties in finding skilled people to fill their vacancies.
That is why we have recommended expanding the SOL to cover a range of occupations in health, information and engineering fields.
However, our recommendations are clearly only applicable under the current immigration system, while EU free movement remains. We are recommending a full review of the SOL once there is a clearer picture of what the future immigration system will look like.
The review’s other recommendations include:
- a consideration of medium-skilled occupations which may become eligible for the SOL in the future system
- the inclusion of Gaelic teachers in the Scotland-only SOL
- pilots to expand the evidence-base on what might work in migration policy for remote communities
- removing the restriction on chef visas, which currently excludes those offering a takeaway service. This is in recognition of the changing nature of the hospitality sector and with the aim of future-proofing the list
The Home Office has “significantly reduced” the amount of data sharing it carries out with other agencies in the wake of the Windrush scandal, according to the chief inspector of immigration and borders.
In a report on the department’s approach to illegal working, David Bolt (pictured) says the Home Office had said in July 2018 that it would halt “proactive data sharing with other government departments and delivery partners for people of all nationalities aged over 30, initially for three months”.
“At the time of the inspection (late last year), this was still paused, with no indication of when it might end,” it says, adding: “Managers were taking a more cautious approach to the production and circulation of performance data, and this had affected morale.
“Meanwhile, proactive data sharing, engagement with partners, and operations were running at a significantly reduced rate.”
The report says the exposure of the wrongful treatment of British residents “fundamentally altered the environment in which immigration enforcement operated”.
Theresa May’s administration was rocked by the fallout from the “hostile environment” she introduced for undocumented migrants, many of whom were wrongly identified as being in the country illegally.
They were denied access to healthcare, employment and housing, with data was passed to the Home Office from schools, the NHS and the police for enforcement purposes.
UKAuthority reported last year how two schemes – immigration checks by banks using Home Office data and the NHS sharing patients’ details – had been suspended.
Fresh evidence for the scaling back of data sharing has been made public by a freedom of information response to the online publication Byline Times.
In 2016, before Windrush hit the headlines, data was shared between the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Home Office 54,874 times over a six-month period. But the website revealed that this total fell to just 3,470 occasions between November 2018 and April this year.
Zrinka Bralo, chief executive of the group Migrants Organise, told Byline Times she cautiously welcomed the development.
“I would like to think this is a sign that the Home Office is no longer prioritising it (the hostile environment),” she said.
In his report, Bolt acknowledges the “significant” effect on enforcement, as targets were abolished, removals of illegal workers fell and other agencies increasingly resisted helping immigration officers.
Enforcement teams faced growing attempts to disrupt their work, with threatening behaviour, verbal abuse and protests, it says.
Original article available here: https://www.ukauthority.com/articles/home-office-cuts-immigration-data-sharing/
The Guardian and Independent report on calls from the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration for Ministers to consider “scrapping controversial immigration fees” charged to children from families who cannot afford it and to refund profits from failed citizenship applications.
According to the Guardian, the inspector’s report says the Government should publish information on the negative social and equality effects of the Home Office’s fees policy.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
To reduce the burden on UK tax payers, fee levels take into account the wider costs involved in running our border, immigration and citizenship system, so that those who directly benefit from it contribute to its funding. The Home Secretary has committed to keeping fees under review.
However, we recognise that we have a duty to support the vulnerable. That is why we have fee waivers in place for those who need it most, including children and young people who have spent a significant amount of their life in the UK.
The new directorates that replaced the former UKBA have made progress in some areas but not across the whole business.
“The Home Office has started making significant changes since the Agency was broken up and has made progress in some areas. We would have expected greater progress by now though in tackling the problems we identified in 2012 in areas such as specific backlogs and IT. Among our recommendations is that the Department prioritize outstanding backlogs and act to prevent the cases that it classifies as unworkable building up into backlogs.”
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office
The two new Home Office directorates that have replaced the former UK Border Agency have had no significant performance falls during or after the split of the Agency. Improvements have been made in some areas, but not across the whole business.
In March 2013, the Home Secretary abolished the remaining Agency and brought its work into the Department under two new directorates: UK Visas and Immigration; and Immigration Enforcement.
New service standards introduced by UK Visas and Immigration have given customers greater transparency regarding the time taken to complete different types of visa application. The Department has also prioritized clearing backlogs of cases, and made additional resource available to do so.
Progress in clearing the backlogs varies, however. UK Visas and Immigration has cleared all straightforward cases in the areas of temporary and permanent migration but, as at March 2014, the Department had around 301,000 open cases. These comprise some 85,000 which are in hand and remain within the timescales for reaching a decision in the temporary and permanent migration area; and other specific backlogs, most notably over 25,000 claims for asylum.
According to the NAO, there is a risk that cases on hold are not dealt with in a reasonable time. These include asylum cases awaiting a decision and cases in the ‘migration refusal pool’, where the Department does not know whether those people who have been refused leave to remain have indeed left the country.
Poor IT means that the Department lacks the good quality information needed to run the business. The flagship Immigration Casework (ICW) programme was supposed to replace the legacy Casework Information Database and 20 other systems, but the ICW programme was closed in August 2013, having not delivered all the planned functions, the whole programme having cost £347 million. Caseworkers, therefore, still rely on a legacy system. Support contracts for vital legacy systems are due to expire in 2016, before the new Immigration Platform Technologies programme rolls out fully in 2017.
Staff across the directorates told the NAO of their concerns around data quality for cases. Some data is transferred manually from paper to IT systems, increasing the risk of errors.
Low morale and a fear of drawing attention to bad news were commonplace in the Agency and issues frequently surfaced only at crisis points. According to the NAO, senior managers in the new directorates are changing the culture inherited from the former Agency and, while still low, morale is improving.
Original article available here: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/reforming-uk-border-immigration-system-2/