IfG: Home Office needs more realistic policies

8 Mar 19

The Home Office “is not ready or able” to manage immigration after Brexit, a think-tank has warned.

The Institute for Government has said the department must face some “uncomfortable truths” about its policies including the need to scrap its net migration target.

In a report out today, the IfG said one of the problems is that the Home Office has “unrealistic targets and a lack of a clear strategy” for immigration after Brexit.

IfG described net migration targets as “little more than a political tactic” and said the government has never had the power to deliver it.

In the 2017 Conservative manifesto a target was set to reduce net migration to 100,000 and more recently the government’s Immigration White Paper said it aims to “reduce annual net migration to sustainable levels” as set out in the manifesto.

But the IfG described these as “arbitrary targets” and recommended that the government should publish an annual migration plan, which would subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

The report also highlighted issues with scrutiny of immigration policy and said despite effective work from the home affairs committee and other bodies there are still “significant gaps”.

Skills shortages after Brexit was another concern highlighted in the report and it noted that the UK has come to depend on EU workers who do not have to deal with UK immigration systems.

IfG pointed to Migration Advisory Committee data which showed 15% of construction workers and 15% of workers in science and research are EU migrants. And for every 100 seasonal agricultural workers in the UK, 99 are EU citizens.

Jill Rutter, programme director for Brexit at the IfG, said: “’Taking back control’ of immigration means taking responsibility for the problems in the current system.

“The UK currently depends on workers from the EU to meet skills gaps and labour shortages. The task of managing immigration will completely change in both scale and importance once free movement ends.”

Joe Owen, associate director of the IfG, said: “As we end free movement from the EU, our migration policy must address the needs of the country but also the public confidence challenge.

“Ministers need to consider whether the Home Office is the right permanent home for migration policy that needs to serve labour market needs, be fair and efficient in dealing with applicants, and provide the necessary degree of assurance to the wider public.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This report calls on the government to publish a clear vision for immigration, which the government has done through the White Paper on the UK’s future skills-based immigration system, published last year.

“We are resolute in our determination to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and have commissioned a Lessons Learned review with independent oversight and scrutiny to establish what went wrong and prevent it happening again.”

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