Migration Bill could damage UK’s economy

Long term restrictions on migrants’ being able to access benefits and social housing

14 January 2009 – The economic downturn could be longer and deeper if Government plans to restrict immigration are implemented, said the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Ahead of the government’s Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill due to be published this Thursday, IPPR criticise proposals to make it more difficult for migrants to gain British citizenship.

IPPR says the government must to use this bill to recognise that migrants are crucial to British economy both now and beyond the recession. It warns that if the bill goes forward in its current form the UK will lose out to other countries competing to attract migrants.

Tim Finch, Head of IPPR’s Migration Team, said:

“Migrants become easy targets at times of economic difficulty but introducing yet more tough measures to exclude people could damage our prospects for economic recovery.

“As it stands, the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill could deter migrants who are in high demand and who are essential for our economy.

“Not all migrants will want to settle in the UK, but some will and so it’s important that the over-complicated process of “earned citizenship” is made more clear and fair.”

IPPR says that introducing measures which will make Britain less attractive to those migrants that the economy needs is counter-productive and unnecessary – as evidence suggests that migration ebbs and flows over time. Immigration boomed when the economy was booming and is likely to slow naturally as the economy slows.

Ippr says that the bill’s current proposals overcomplicate the process of “earned citizenship” and are unclear as to what migrants will be required to do to “earn” citizenship during their so-called “probationary period”.

The bills also raises issues of fairness and transparency particularly with regard to long term restrictions on migrants’ being able to access benefits and social housing.

Ippr considers that the bill needs to address the following issues:
* Flexibility: The proposals on so-called “earned citizenship”, along with the new tighter points-based system of managed migration, must be sufficiently flexible to ensure that the UK’s long-term economic need for migrants is met.
* Clarity: It is unclear what migrants will be required to do to “earn” citizenship during the so called “probationary period”. To ensure the system is transparent and fair it needs to be clear what contributions to British life are to be considered, how they will be judged and by who.
* Fairness: As-yet unspecified restrictions are proposed on migrants’ access to benefits and social housing. However, migrants who have not achieved full citizenship may still be contributing a great deal to the country, and may have raised their families here. Is it fair in these circumstances to deny them a welfare safety net if they fall on hard times?

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