Migrants, Multiculture

Immigration in the UK: the debate continues

The immigration rate in the United Kingdom has increased significantly over the last ten years, thus making the coalition government come up with a “vision” for the future. But are the new ideas a key driver for global competition advantage in the 21st century? Or is it to limit immigration and protect Britain’s homogeneity?

Barbara Adu-Darko

David Cameron made a speech on immigration in April, in which he said that “what matters most is not who comes into the country but who stays”. He went on to state “that people coming to fill short-term skills gaps can stay long term. It is essential we break the link between temporary visas and permanent settlement.”

The Home Office has recently pulled out a paper that sets out how it intends to tackle the issue of immigration.

The ideas include the extension of the English test and a negotiation tab on domestic worker visas, an area where evidence highlights the exploitation of migrants in Britain.

However the central proposal of the Home Office is somewhat controversial as all economic immigration will become temporary. This means at the end of their visa less or up to five years- skilled workers will be expected to return back home.

The coalition government hopes that the strategy of targeting the end of visas, which the previous government use to do but with much focus and control on temporary visas will reduce the rate of immigrants in Britain. In David Cameron’s speech he also made it verbal about the system the coalition government inherited and questioned the balance of immigration and that it should be shifted towards temporary rather than permanent.

They could have argued that temporary immigration already plays a positive role in the economy, including students and workers.

The Migration Observatory has pointed out that if the changes are made it will only affect new arrivals, and that the impact will be delayed until after the next election.

The question posed to this is, will it work then? There have been failures of such schemes, for instance the German welcomed Turkish “guest workers” in the decades following the Second World War but later on decided to make them aware of their status in the country by advertising slogans like “there is nothing more permanent than temporary workers”, however this lead to division within communities as those who stayed behind were discouraged to integrate.

However some countries like Canada has had some success with their seasonal scheme targeted at Latin American migrants who are not just expected to return but actually return seasonally.

The policy will risk of encouraging division among immigrant communities rather than integration, and what the government fail to consider is not all immigrants intend to settle but they often acknowledge the option of settlement in Britain.

The coalition government needs to be aware that they cannot control the full force of immigration but to those who care about reducing immigration, making all economic immigration temporary can be functional.

But to those who think and wants Britain to continue to attract productive workers to help impact the economy as we try to crawl our way out of recession then the “vision” the government has for immigration raises real concerns.

The immigration debate will go on and will continue to be a controversial topic.

Over the years and in the future government’s that come into power will try to come up with schemes to tackle the immigration rate in Britain, the problem is the governments will have to deal with employment, the economy and also the future of multicultural Britain.

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