This month, the United Kingdom’s coalition government under Prime Minister David Cameron, will impose tougher immigration rules through the Immigration Act 2014. The new act has stringent measures targeted at abuses by immigrants into the UK. Mushtak Parker finds out if such rules are an effective deterrent for those migrating for economic reasons.
In the United Kingdom, issues such as illegal economic migration, over-stayers, forged passports and papers, and sham marriages, are not only a hurdle in policy, border control and security terms, but also hit some of the prospective immigrants the hardest and where it hurts most – the wallet.
This November, the UK Immigration Act 2014 continues to come into force. It includes tight regulations on student visas, and attempts to crack down on illegal migrants and visa over-stayers. The Act also includes plans to halve the period over which EU migrants can claim welfare benefits.
The UK Border Agency official statement reads: “The Immigration Act 2014 contains 77 clauses and makes fundamental changes to how our immigration system functions. It will limit the factors which draw illegal migrants to the UK, make it easier to remove those with no right to be here and ensure the Courts have regard to Parliament’s view of what the public interest requires when considering Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in immigration cases.”
The UK government admits that the new rules under the Act “will also make the UK less attractive to people who come here for the wrong reasons, and allow us to remove more people when they have no right to remain.”
Making the announcement of the tougher rules, the British prime minister was categorical: “Hardworking people expect and deserve an immigration system that puts Britain first. Over the past 4 years we have clamped down on abuses, making sure the right people are coming here for the right reasons. All of these measures will ensure British people get a fair deal.”
The UK’s Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire adds: “The Immigration Act is a landmark piece of legislation which will build on our existing reforms to ensure that our immigration system works in the national interest… We will ensure these measures are introduced quickly and effectively.”
The UK government, like their counterparts in the 28-member European Union (EU), is under severe political pressure at home to curb the influx of immigrants, and has over the last few years devised complex rules and tiers of immigration and visa categories to at least slow down the process – with modest success, judging by the latest figures.
This also affects conditions for new EU accession and of membership of the 1985 Schengen Agreement, which guarantees free movement of people across most EU borders. The principle of free movement is now being challenged at the heart of the EU. This anti-immigrant feeling can be seen elsewhere in Europe too. Non-EU member Switzerland even voted earlier this year to tightly restrict immigration from the EU, let alone non-EU countries.
The phenomenon the EU most fear is economic migrants, escaping the desperation of poverty and bad governance, as opposed to conflict or persecution at home and who take all risks, even with their own lives, just to come into the EU.
While the EU countries have entrenched processes in place dealing with high-end “desirable” migrants, such as qualified financial experts, and scientific and medical personnel, as well as asylum seekers on the basis of human rights legislation (and even more recently relating to human trafficking, particularly that involving children and young women), the phenomenon they most fear is economic migrants, escaping the desperation of poverty and bad governance, as opposed to conflict or persecution at home and who take all risks, even with their own lives, just to come into the EU.