26 September 2011

Opposition Leader admits former UK immigration policy 'wrong'

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has admitted the former government made poor policy decisions on immigration, ahead of the release of damaging reports on Eastern European immigration to the UK.

UK visa

Ed Miliband has admitted faults with the previous Labour government's immigration policy

Speaking at the Labour's annual party conference in Liverpool today Ed Miliband said the former government, in which he was a Minister, was unwise to allow unchecked immigration from Eastern European countries.

"We got it wrong. I think we underestimated the level of immigration from Poland, which had a big effect on people.

"We've clearly got to learn those lessons for the future when it comes to future accession...if you have a more open economy in Europe, you've got to put in the right protection for people, for workers," he said.

The comments follow the announcement that the current Coalition Government will this week release a number of reports that were commissioned by the previous government but kept from the public.  The reports present research on the problems faced by Eastern European - particularly Bulgarian and Romanian - immigrants to the UK. 

According to members of the news media, who have been granted access to the documents, it is shown that immigrants to the UK are more likely to be unemployed than holders of British citizenship and are less likely to take part in 'civic participation'.

One of the reports indicates that more than 15% of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants to the UK were claiming unemployment benefits as of 2009.  A further 27% of these migrants were considered to have 'low education levels'.

The previous UK government introduced a points-based system which was aimed at making it more difficult for non-European Union citizens to obtain a UK visa.  However as formerly Eastern Bloc countries joined the EU - as Poland did in 2004 and Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 - large numbers of their citzens were able to freely migrate to the UK.

One of the reports found that there was a direct correlation between a decline in population in Bulgaria and Romania and an increase in the UK population between 2004 and 2010.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps has claimed the former government deliberately misled the public in withholding the reports.

"This is another disturbing cover-up by a Labour Party that failed on immigration and then tried to bury the truth," he said.

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