Category Archives: damian green

It was Labour’s failure to deal with the backlog of asylum seekers that has resulted in an amnesty

Originally published on ConservativeHome

This morning the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is now elected, said what it failed to say for years when Labour whips appointed a Labour majority to the committee. The backlog of nearly half a million asylum claims, which built up over Labour’s years of at best incompetent administration and at worst wilful neglect, has been cleared by in effect issuing an amnesty.

It is understandable that Damian Green, the current immigration minister who like me is a Kent MP, does not want to use that word, or advertise that position, but the Home Affairs Committee, in a unanimous report, has no doubt that an amnesty is in effect what we have seen. What else can we call the instructions issued by Labour ministers to nod through asylum seekers just because they had failed to deal with them for six years or more?

Of 403,500 backlog cases ‘concluded’ up to 2 March 2011, only 38,000 asylum seekers were removed, while 161,000 were granted asylum and right to remain and an extraordinary 205,500 cases were classified as ‘other’ (NB to mathematically-minded readers – officials told our committee that the 1,000 difference between the total and sum of the categories is a rounding error).

The most significant ‘other’ category is the around 75,000 asylum seekers who have just disappeared as far as the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is concerned. It is not right that UKBA describes such cases as ‘concluded’ just because the asylum seeker is put on a watch list and does not come to officialdom’s attention for six months. Our committee’s questioning did at least elicit the assurance from UKBA that such ‘concluded’ cases will remain on a watch list and action will be taken should that person later seek, for instance, to claim benefits.

Nonetheless, the use by UKBA of language which implies that a case has been dealt with when it has not will infuriate my constituents. At least Damian Green will be as keen as I am to report back to our Kent constituents on what this government will continue to do to track down and deal with asylum seekers lost in the system under Labour.

Crucially, this government has also said that it will reduce net immigration from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands. The Prime Minister and Damian as immigration minister have assured me that the coalition government can do this, despite limitations placed on it by our membership of the EU and application of the Human Rights Act.

If they find that is not the case, then the answer will have to be a Conservative government that removes those restrictions, so that we keep the promise we made to our constituents on immigration.

Discussing Immigration Controls For Foreign Students

Discussing the Home Affairs Select Committee report on immigration controls for foreign students on Radio 4’s PM programme:

Decision Time On Immigration

The Government has promised to cut net immigration from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands a year. This was a key plank of the Conservative manifesto and one which was very popular with many of my constituents and across the country as a whole.

Damian GreenWe are fortunate to have the excellent Damian Green as Immigration Minister, a Kent MP who understands the impact which excessive immigration can have on our constituents. The fact that the Prime Minister appointed such a key figure in the party to sort out immigration also shows the importance which David Cameron places on our immigration commitment.

What is less clear is whether all my colleagues on the Home Affairs Select Committee really want to see immigration cut. We have already reported on work visas, but it was Damian Green who led the way to cutting these – by showing that many of the supposedly most highly skilled Tier 1 migrants actually worked in unskilled jobs.

Now we are dealing with student visas, almost 335,000 of which are issued every year, before moving on to family visas, where I am concerned that proper and appropriate restrictions may be struck down by the courts under European rules and the Human Rights Act.

Given the large number of overseas students and the ease with which many can stay on after graduating, it is essential that we take steps to reduce numbers. When the Home Office launched our policy on 7 December 2010 it said it was “seeking views on a range of measures to reduce the number of students that can come into the UK”. In particular, it very correctly proposed closing down the Post Study Work route, opened by Labour in 2006, which allows almost 40,000 foreign students to enter the UK labour force every year.

People expect Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee to engage constructively with government policy and our Chairman is known for his deft political footwork. Unfortunately, because my amendment was rejected by the Labour and LibDem majority on the committee, our report published overnight would leave a gaping hole in our immigration controls for foreign students to stay on and work after graduation. This is unacceptable and I strongly urge Damian Green to ignore the recommendations backed by the LibDem and Labour members at paragraphs 58 and 59 of the report. Our constituents in Kent and elsewhere expect the government to deliver on its promise to cut immigration, after over a decade of mass immigration under Labour, and Damian Green is the man to do it.