29 May 2013

Minister says Government 'on track' with UK immigration efforts

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Immigration Minister Mark Harper has said the Government is 'on track' to cut net migration to the UK to the 'tens of thousands' by the end of the current parliament.

UK visa

Immigration Minister Mark Harper says the Government is on track to meet its UK immigration targets.

The Conservative-led coalition Government has made cutting UK immigration rates a cornerstone of its current term in power. After inheriting levels of up to 250,000 a year from the previous Labour government, the coalition set about adding further controls to the system.

This has included adding minimum wage requirements and application caps to several UK visa streams as well as promising more changes to come. While the changes' have had their fair share of outspoken critics, claiming clamping down on migration would damage a still fragile economy, the numbers eventually began to fall.

Writing in his constituency's local newspaper, Mr Harper said the latest immigration figures published by the independent Office for National Statistics (ONS) proved the Government 'are making good progress'.

"Since 2010, net migration has fallen by more than a third. In the year ending September 2012, net migration was 153,000 – down from 242,000 the year before. This shows that the reforms that the Government has made to the immigration system are working. However, the level of net migration is still too high, and there is still more to do," wrote the minister.

Critics have argued the Government's changes, particularly those affecting international students, damage the UK's reputation abroad and the economy's recovery at home. Mr Harper however, argues that 'a properly managed immigration system will allow us to keep Britain open for business, welcoming the best and the brightest in to the UK to contribute to our economy, but deterring those who only want to take out rather than contribute'.

One of the biggest worries for the Government is the impending accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, meaning they will no longer need a UK visa to move to Britain; the last time a similar event occurred - when Poland, Latvia and Lithuania acceded in 2004 - an unprecedented spike in UK immigration rates occurred.

The minister says the Government's newest immigration bill will take these factors into account and continue controlling the immigration system in such a way to prioritise Britain and Britons first:

"We do need to make sure that everyone who comes to the UK (both from inside and outside the EU) comes to contribute – in the same way that Brits living abroad, including the one and a half million living in Europe, are expected to.

"This is why an Immigration Bill will be brought forward this Parliamentary session, which will stop migrants abusing public services, reducing the pull factors which draw illegal immigrants to the UK. This Government knows that getting immigration under control is very important for our country, and we will continue to implement robust policies to make sure that this happens."

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