Tory tough talk on migrants clashes with surge

Obsession with laws to clamp down on illegals overlooks their valuable input

 A Romanian man is interviewed by Immigration Enforcement officers after a raid on a residential property looking for illegal immigrants in Southall, England. Photograph: Laura Lean/Getty Images

A Romanian man is interviewed by Immigration Enforcement officers after a raid on a residential property looking for illegal immigrants in Southall, England. Photograph: Laura Lean/Getty Images

 

Theresa May turned up on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme at 8.10am on Thursday to talk tough about cracking down on illegal workers in Britain and about upcoming negotiations with the rest of the European Union.

Everything was deliberately couched to send out a message to Middle England that the Conservatives, now in power with a majority, will be no pushovers on immigration over the next five years. The message would have been more difficult to deliver an hour later when Office of National Statistics figures showed net migration surged to 318,000 in 2014 – 109,000 higher than 2013 and just below the all-time peak in 2005.

Net migration from the rest of the EU – which May can do nothing about – rose from 123,000 to 178,000. However, non-EU migration – the bit she claimed had been brought under control – grew from 143,000 to 197,000.

Five years ago, shortly before he first took power, David Cameron vowed he would bring immigration below 100,000 a year. So far, he has not been able to honour his pledge, and he has little chance of doing so now.

However, he has to talk the talk. Three hours after May left Broadcasting House, Cameron appeared in her ministerial lair in The Home Office to detail some of his plans to deal with illegal immigrants – ie, those who are not EU citizens.

House raid

Employers will be barred from advertising for staff abroad, but not at home. Landlords will have to demand immigration papers from tenants, but will get powers to evict quickly if they have already let properties to illegals. Banks will carry out tougher checks to ensure account-holders are living in Britain legally, while a new agency will take over powers shared currently between four different departments to ensure illegals are caught.

The hiring of illegals is rife – not just for east-of-England crop-picking, but elsewhere. For years, the British system tacitly ignored it. Even now, the number of prosecutions taking place for paying staff pittances is paltry.

Speaking in the home office’s atrium, with staff on all floors looking down, Cameron blamed the now-departed Liberal Democrats for the sins of the past, saying the Conservatives had always wanted to go further, but were blocked.

The new landlords’ checks, for example, had to be reduced to a West Midlands pilot scheme because of the Liberal Democrats, he told them. Things will be different under “a Conservative-only” administration.

However, Liberal Democrats former immigration minister Tom Brake, one of the few to survive this month’s election carnage, was not alone in believing Cameron and May had indulged in sleight of hand.

“Perhaps we will see those home office vans with the billboards, sort of, taken out of the garages they are in and starting running around our roads again telling people to go home,” he told BBC News.

Again and again, Cameron implied that eastern Europeans coming to Britain sign on for benefits before getting work – though Department of Work and Pensions figures show they are less likely to claim out-of-work benefits.

However, they are more likely to claim so-called “in-work benefits” – the multibillion-pound scheme created by Gordon Brown that has helped to fuel Britain’s low-wage economy. It is worth nearly £10,000 a- ear to immigrants, particularly those with children.

London profile

Meanwhile, just one in 20 living in the northeast of England – where Ukip lies in second place behind Labour in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Easington, Gateshead, Houghton and Sunderland South, Washington and Sunderland West, South Shields and Blaydon – was born abroad.

In reality, immigrants pay in more than they take out. Often it is argued they put unsustainable pressure on public services. Because of their age, however, they have little need of hospitals and social care, but they do need schools.

Cameron’s demand for welfare benefit curbs is winning support in EU capitals. However, the sympathy ends quickly, since eastern European countries will not accept their migrant workers should get less than a British-born worker. Excluding the many cases of abuse, the reality is hundreds of thousands of EU migrant workers are filling jobs which cannot be filled by the British, because the latter lack the education, skills or work ethic.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.