Britain more successful at tackling immigration than neighbours: Johnson
3rd November 2009: Even as the critics claimed the government admitted its mistakes over the immigration policy "three million immigrants too late", Home Secretary Alan Johnson has received a pat on his back from several quarters for “honest appraisal”.
According to available information, Johnson “admitted” the government has made “mistakes” over the immigration policy.
Talking for the first time on the issue, Johnson said Labour had been "maladroit" in its handling of the issue; and too little was done to tackle huge backlogs in asylum cases came.
The Home Secretary agreed an influx of new arrivals had resulted in a pressure on jobs and services; and some parts of Britain had been disproportionately affected. The speech is being construed to indicate a tougher line from Johnson.
In his speech, Johnson said: "The legacy problems with unreturned foreign national prisoners and asylum-seekers may have accumulated under previous administrations, but they continued to be ignored for far too long on our watch."
Johnson said Labour had struggled to contain the huge surge in people fleeing conflict zones in the past decade. At one stage the number of asylum-seekers hit more than 80,000 a year and the immigration system was overwhelmed.
The Home Secretary said a rational debate on immigration had to recognise it was reasonable to expect new migrants should learn the language, obey the law and pay their taxes; but insisted Britain was now more successful at tackling immigration than most of its European and North American neighbours.
The Home Secretary’s speech comes soon after Office for National Statistics projected Britain’s population would rise to 70 million in 20 years. Two thirds of the projected increase would come from migration or by births to new migrants.
As of now, the officials are working through a backlog of 450,000 asylum cases discovered in 2006. Then, there another 40,000 immigration cases mostly of people who have overstayed their visas. The Home Office does not even know if they have left Britain.
Amidst the clamor on the issue, former Home Secretary John Reid backed Johnson’s “honest appraisal”, by asserting immigration was too important a social issue to be ignored or treated with complacency. Reid insisted it must be ensured economic benefits of the movement of labour into Britain were weighed against the social costs.
One of the Government’s most vocal backbench critics Frank Field, on the other hand, said it was the first recognition by a top-ranking politician that governments have got the immigration issue wrong.
Reacting to the development, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling referred to Johnson’s refusal to put a cap on immigration and said just about three months back the Home secretary said he was not losing his sleep over immigration. But, now he was admitting it was putting massive pressure on many communities.
Claiming the apology came three million immigrants too late, Sir Andrew Green of thinktank Migrationwatch UK said the least that can be done is to cut net immigration to zero and deport the huge number of illegal immigrants that inattention has allowed to stay.