26 February 2015

New immigration figures: “a quarterly reminder to the public of why they don’t trust politicians on immigration”

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The new ONS immigration figures showed net migration at 298,000 in the year ending September 2014, triple the government’s ‘tens of thousands’ target.

Responding to the figures, Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:
“The ONS statistics have become a quarterly reminder to the public of why they don’t trust politicians on immigration, thanks to the net migration target.
“If the Prime Minister remains in denial about the broken target, he is setting himself up for five more years of failure. It is already clear there is next to no chance of meeting the same target in the next Parliament either.
“It’s absurd to think that anyone would believe this broken promise if it’s made again.
“There is a simple political moral to this tale: careless promises cost trust.
“Making the same mistake again in the 2015 manifesto would suggest that nothing has been learnt from five years experience in government.
“The public would support sensible policies to get a proper grip on immigration: fixing the system with more investment, having sensible targets that apply to the non-EU immigration we can control, removing students from the immigration figures and setting out the reforms to EU free movement which can be delivered.
“But David Cameron shouldn’t pretend his EU immigration reforms are the magic bullet that helps him hit the ‘tens of thousands’ target. That won’t stand up to two minutes’ scrutiny during the election campaign.
“In the meantime, if there’s anyone left who thinks the net migration target is a good idea, they should step forward and set out a policy for achieving it.”

ICM polling for British Future finds that 70% of the public would prefer the government to deliver on a realistic target to limit the immigration it can control, rather than a tougher target it may not be able to meet.

Sensible alternative policies to get a proper grip on managing immigration would win backing across several parties, says British Future – and could command broad public support in a way that repeating a broken promise again simply won’t.

These could include:
-Increasing investment in the immigration system so it can do the job in an efficient and fair way.
-Giving a clear timescale for finally fixing the system on entry and exit checks.
-Removing students from the net migration figures – something that the Greens, LibDems, SNP, Labour and UKIP agree on, along with three-quarters of the British public (2).
-Making future immigration targets apply to non-EU migration, something over which the government has considerably more control. A non-EU net migration target could well be set at a level between 50,000 and 100,000 – as long as the government
sensibly separated temporary student immigration out from those figures.
-Setting out the reforms to EU free movement that can be delivered – and give the public the choice, in a referendum on British membership.

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