Richard North, 02/10/2014  
 

Part 2 has been posted below this ... the comment thread here serves both posts

000a CH-001 Immigration.jpg

Conservative Home picks up on a Conservative fringe event, jointly hosted by British Future and ConHome, "provocatively" entitled "Immigration: How can we make promises we keep?" Interestingly, the four panel members, including Paul Goodman and Owen Paterson, all refrained from offering easy answers. They indicated that they would leave such disreputable behaviour to UKIP.

Nevertheless, Owen Paterson turned up to point out, in formidably well-briefed remarks, that leaving the EU and following the border control path of Norway or Australia would not guarantee lower migration.

He observed that immigration was "a huge recruiting agent" for UKIP, which was "quite ruthless" at exploiting the issue, then going on to point out that "we do need to have open borders to have a dynamic, thriving economy".

This was against the background of Reckless's defection, and his claim that unless we leave the EU we shall be unable to restrict immigration. This is quite wrong, Paterson averred. About 13 percent of the UK's population consists of immigrants, but the equivalent figure for Norway is 14.9 percent, for Switzerland it is 23 per cent, and for Australia, with its much-vaunted points system, the migrant level stands at 27 percent.

None of those countries, as we are well aware, is in the EU, which had Paterson arguing that, "there are no glib, easy, quick-fix answers". Copying Australia's points-based immigration system may sound to some like the answer, he said, but it’s it was "glib and Ukippish".

On this, Paterson is absolutely right, and in more ways than are immediately apparent, with Australia providing a fascinating example of how the superficial case made by UKIP – which wants to adopt the Australian system – falls apart the moment it is examined in detail.

The crucial thing to appreciate is that, as with every country, immigration policy is in determined by many factors, but especially strong drivers are geography, neighbourhood relations, and the state of the economy, both in absolute terms and relative to its neighbours.

The particular points to note with Australia though are its geography, and its neighbours – or relative lack of them, close to hand. The closest country at an equal stage of development is New Zealand, and that is separated by 925 miles of sea. Arguably, if Australia was separated by a mere 22 miles from a major continental land mass, its attitude to migration might be very different, specifically in terms of freedom of movement between close neighbours. 

And there's the rub. There is freedom of movement between Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand citizens are able to live, work, and study in Australia indefinitely on special "temporary" visas due to reciprocal arrangements between the two countries. New Zealanders settling in Australia are included in total settler numbers but are not counted as part of Australia's Migration Programme unless they choose to apply for permanent residence as skilled or family migrants.

In other words, between Australia and New Zealand exist more or less the same "freedom of movement" arrangements as exist between EU member states.

As for the points-based immigration system, this limits immigration visas to applicants who conform to certain criteria, and who have certain skills. Potential applicants have to stack up 60 points but basically, if you are under 50, can speak English and have a pulse, you can get in. There are so many "skilled" occupations almost anyone could find a fit, whether a cook, florist or community worker.

Even then, for an applicant who has no skills, there is the unskilled migrant entry scheme. Then there is the "family stream", where relatives of existing immigrants can join them, and then there is the humanitarian stream, for the substantial number of asylum seekers who are given entry.

000a Australia-001 immig.jpg

On top of all this, there is a holiday worker scheme, and for those who do not qualify for permanent visas, there are temporary visas. Through either of these, workers can acquire points to go towards qualifying for a permanent visa, as work experience in Australia is weighted in favour of the applicant.

Looking at this in the round, one might conclude that a skills-based quota system works brilliantly, with just a few provisos. Taking from the Australian model, the skill-set has to be relaxed, it shouldn't be applied rigorously and there must be plenty of exemptions.

And that is why, for the 2014-15 programme, the Australians intend to admit 190,000 migrants. On a pro rata basis, this is equivalent to the UK admitting half a million people, making it an interesting choice as UKIP's poster child for its immigration policy.

As Owen Paterson says, there aren't any easy answers. And we should not pretend there are.

FORUM THREAD






comments powered by Disqus











Log in


Sign THA





The Many, Not the Few