Archive for the ‘Migration’ Category

UK government yet to commission Australian migration system review

A month after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to commission a report into Australia’s points-based migration system, he still hasn’t done so, according to the independent committee that would be charged with conducting the review.

“For years, politicians have promised the public an Australian-style points based system,” Johnson said on July 25 in his first speech to the British parliament after replacing Theresa May as PM. “And today I will actually deliver on those promises — I will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review of that system as the first step in a radical rewriting of our immigration system.”

But the committee said Johnson’s government has yet to request the review.

“At present we have not received the commission to look at an Australian points-based system for the U.K.,” a Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) official said. “We look forward to receiving more detail on the commission in due course.”

According to the MAC official, it could take about six months to produce a report, though the actual timing would depend on the details of the commission itself.

“I don’t know if they’re going to give us this [commission] separately or as a sort of light-touch one as part of another commission. That’s what we’re waiting for at the moment — whether it’s going to be a real in-depth one, or an initial look and then an in-depth one later,” the official said. “I can’t give you more information at the moment because we’re not sure ourselves.”

Speculation about the commission “stemmed from just a comment [Johnson] made in parliament,” the official continued. “It’s much more work than just saying that and then expecting the answers, isn’t it?”

A No. 10 spokesperson said: “The PM has instructed the Home Office to task the MAC,” and “they will be actioning this in due course.”

A Home Office spokesperson said that Johnson has “set out this government’s ambitious vision for a new immigration system that is open to the world and brings the brightest and best to the U.K.”

“As part of this, the home secretary will shortly commission the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review the Australian-style points-based system,” the spokesperson added.

Earlier this month, a spokeswoman for the prime minister said Johnson’s post-Brexit immigration plan is still “being developed” but insisted that freedom of movement “will end” on October 31, when the U.K. is due to leave the EU. “The prime minister has obviously been clear he wants to introduce an Australian-style points base immigration system,” the spokeswoman added at the time.

Johnson backed the points-based system when he led the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum, and has repeatedly said he wanted to introduce the system in the U.K. after Brexit.

Emilio Casalicchio contributed reporting.

This article has been updated with a response from a Home Office spokesperson.

EU migration to UK sinks to lowest level since 2013

LONDON — EU migration to the United Kingdom has fallen to its lowest level in six years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In the year ending March 2019, 200,000 EU citizens were estimated to have moved to the U.K., the ONS said Thursday. The number of EU citizens arriving in the U.K. has fallen continually since 2016, the year the country voted for Brexit.

This is the lowest figure since the year ending June 2013, when it was an estimated 183,000. The ONS said the recent drop was mostly due to a decline in people moving to the U.K. for work.

Only about 59,000 more EU nationals arrived than left in the year ending March 2019, the ONS said. In the year ending June 2016, EU net migration to the UK stood at 189,000.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said free movement of people from the EU “will end” on October 31.

Matthew Fell, chief U.K. policy director at business lobby group CBI, said that the downward trend in EU net migration, combined with record-low unemployment “means that skills shortages are getting worse.”

Overall, about 612,000 people moved to the U.K. in the year ending March 2019, while 385,000 people emigrated, according to the ONS. This leaves total net migration to the U.K. at 226,000.

The data was released one day after the ONS admitted that long-term migration from the EU to the U.K. between 2009 and 2016 had been underestimated by as much as a quarter of a million people.

The ONS acknowledged there was a discrepancy between migration statistics and population statistics, as the former are drawn from the International Passenger Survey, which asks people arriving in the U.K. about their future residency plans.

“Europeans don’t necessarily know what they are going to do, they can change their mind and they don’t need to answer truthfully,” Jonathan Portes, an economist at King’s College London, said.

Boris Johnson insists free movement ’will end’ October 31

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit immigration plan is still “being developed” but he insisted today that freedom of movement “will end” on October 31.

At a regular briefing for journalists, a spokeswoman for the prime minister said “tougher criminality rules” for people entering the U.K. would be immediately introduced, as one example of how the U.K.’s immigration policy would shift from day one after Brexit.

Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May had been planning a “transition” period until the end of 2020 during which the U.K. would continue to have the same obligations as an EU country, under the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU27. That deal was voted down by parliament and Johnson has called for it to be reopened.

The new prime minister’s tough stance has big implications for a host of industries reliant on workers from abroad such as the farming sector and the National Health Service, and would require immediate changes to immigration checks at airports and ports.

The spokeswoman said the government’s settled status scheme, which May’s government set up to guarantee that EU nationals living in the U.K. before the end of 2020 are able to remain in the U.K. indefinitely, would continue as it had previously been announced.

The Home Office said today that, while EU citizens will have until December 2020 to apply for settled status, it will only be EU citizens living in the U.K. before 11 p.m. on October 31 that will be eligible.

“Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on October 31 when the U.K. leaves the EU. For example we will introduce immediately much tougher criminality rules for people entering the U.K. Details of other changes immediately on October 31 for a new immigration system are currently being developed and we will set out further plans on that front shortly,” the spokeswoman said.

“The prime minister has obviously been clear he wants to introduce an Australian-style points base immigration system,” the spokeswoman added. Australian visas are allocated in line with criteria including age, qualifications and English language ability.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has sent officials to Singapore to “understand how a well-functioning immigration IT system is developed. Specifically, ensuring we can count people in and out the country,” the Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.

However, concerns have been raised it would be impossible to implement immediate changes because the government has not yet solved the question of how to distinguish between those who were already in the U.K. before Brexit and those who will enter the country post October 31, and because government will not have finished registering all EU citizens already in the U.K. by then.

A Downing Street official privately admitted that in a no-deal scenario there would not be a lot of time available to make a “significant change” to the U.K.’s immigration system and to get a new system ready.

Despicable migrants? UK’s treatment of foreign criminals will only harden after Brexit

An increasing number of EU nationals who have committed crimes find themselves being deported. In the context of the UK’s tortured departure from the EU, the deportation of foreign criminals has become a touchstone of British notions of the public goodwrites Nevena Nancheva (Kingston University London). She argues that the UK has effectively curtailed the rights of what it sees as a particularly despicable group of migrants – foreign criminals. Rather than looking at its own inequalities, it has chosen to tighten its physical and invisible borders. 

Britain used to deport its criminals. In fact, it used to deport all ‘wicked and evil-disposed persons’ whom the judges were too merciful to execute instantaneously for a long list of crimes against property, or indeed, for being idle or seeking employment, as section V of the Transportation Act of 1717 mandates. Such offenders were transported originally to the West Indies (where they habitually neglected to stay), then to America (a secret often brushed under the carpet by American historians and politicians alike), then, amidst the turmoil of American revolution and to prevent the French from extending their empire, to Australia in 1787.

In those days, the dispossessed, the idle, the vagrant, the lewd fell into the category of criminals because they threatened the established social order. They were bound for expulsion to protect sovereign landowners, the common good, and the good society. The mobile, in particular, were frowned upon as ‘the chrysalis for every species of criminal’. From a longue durée historical perspective, Bridget Anderson spends a lot of time unpacking the link between vagrancy and criminality in Britain, positioning the migrant as essentially a ‘failed citizen’.

Today, we begrudgingly agree that our criminals, petty or not, are our own problem and should not be dumped on indigenous peoples around the world. (That is, unless we can strip them of their citizenship and invite Bangladesh to deal with them!) Foreign criminals, however, are a totally different matter: a cause célèbre for a host of Labour and Tory leaders, the deportation of foreign criminals has gradually become the norm, rather than the exception to the rule.

Changing the rule book

The notion of Britain’s ‘public good’ has remained intrinsically linked to this development: under the 1971 Immigration Act, non-citizens are liable to deportation if this is deemed to be ‘conducive to the public good’ (section 3(5)). There is no explicit mention of criminality in this law, but the 2007 UK Borders Act amends the omission by explaining that ‘the deportation of a foreign criminal is conducive to the public good’ for the purposes of the above (section 32).

The amendment came after a string of scandals and heated public debates over the fate of some 1,023 foreigners who had been released from British prisons into society since 1999, rather than considered for deportation, costing the office of the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke. It is perhaps not coincidental that these discussions arose in the process of EU enlargement to the 10 former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. Even though regions in turmoil (such as Somalia) or human rights (e.g. international refugee protection) were cited at the time as constraints on deporting foreign criminals, Charles Clarke went on to write a book about the threat of migration within the EU, capturing a long-standing concern of the British public with the open borders and the freedom of movement which the EU seemed to be all about.

The invisible boundaries of Britain

In the context of Brexit and UK’s tortured extraction from the EU, the deportation of foreign criminals has become an interesting touchstone of British notions of the public good: that elusive abstraction which pits the lives and rights of concrete men, women and children against a fuzzy and imagined, but clearly incomparably more significant, entity: the nation. In 2018, I conducted a pilot study of the impact of deportation on the families of foreign criminals in the designated foreign nationals male prison HMP Maidstone. What I discovered in my conversations with matter-of-fact prison wives, is that the law is implemented with implicit disregard for the integrity of their families and the welfare of their children. That the much-lauded ‘public good’, upheld in the letters from the Home Office and the decisions by the judges, should trump the best interests of these families points to the boundaries of Britain’s community of value. As the Brexit dynamics narrows these boundaries, the distinctions between those who clearly do not belong (such as foreign criminals) and those who should belong but are not really welcome (such as EU nationals) become blurred.

Image: author’s, Walls of HMP Maidstone, The Visits Building (1819).

No Article 8 rights for foreign criminals

Even the immigration-control-obsessed 2007 UK Borders Act provides an exception (section 33(2)(a)) to the deportation of foreign criminals in cases where the removal of an individual would breach his or her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular the right to family and private life under Article 8. Before a decision for deportation was made, the individual’s rights would be weighed against the public interest on the basis of a five-stage test (the case of R (Razgar) v SSHD [2004] UKHL 27), normally by a panel of judges at a tribunal, covering a wide variety of factors (‘as varied as life itself’, lawyer Nick Nason sympathetically explains). These rules were swiftly changed, first by the executive in 2012 and then by the legislature in 2014, to limit the cases when individual rights would disable deportation, and to give decisively greater weight to the public interest.

Thus, a prison sentence of anything more than 12 months could justify interference with the rights of a foreign citizen to maintain his or her spousal or parental relationships in the UK, which would otherwise have been protected under human rights legislation. The Secretary of State’s practice to ‘certify’ these rights as ‘clearly unfounded’ (aka ‘deport now, appeal later’) aimed at ‘cracking down on the appeals conveyor belt used by criminals to delay their removal from the UK’, as then Immigration Minister James Brokenshire claimed after the practice was upheld at the court of appeal in 2015.

Disturbing stories began to emerge of petty criminals being ‘treated like animals’, apprehended when signing on with the Home Office and rushed on chartered flights to Jamaica at the break of dawn. Even as the Supreme Court ultimately ruled the system for deportation before appeal unlawful, the Windrush scandal followed in 2018, to illustrate the extreme extents to which Britain’s fascination with deportations had legitimised the practice.

What of EU criminals?

Interestingly, since 2014 an increasing number of EU nationals find themselves among the deported foreign criminals. This is somewhat surprising since EU law mandates a much higher level of protection against deportation for EU citizens than the domestic rules for other foreign criminals. This number is in addition to the homeless EU nationals deported from the UK on the basis of Home Office’s creative interpretation of EU Treaty rights as incompatible with homelessness. The removal of homeless EU nationals has fed into Britain’s own soul-searching over the enforcement of the 1824 Vagrancy Act continuing to criminalise homelessness and begging!

In favour of closure…

So Britain seems to have gone full circle from the days of the penal colonies and the deported mobile poor. It has effectively curtailed the rights of a particularly despicable group of migrants – foreign criminals – all the while making clear its displeasure with order-disturbing vagrants. Rather than looking at its own inequalities, it has chosen to tighten its physical and invisible borders. Brexit will inevitably bring further legal restrictions in the governance of migration. One can only surmise their impact on the public good of Britain after the EU.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor LSE. 

Dr Nevena Nancheva teaches Politics, International Relations and Human Rights at Kingston University London. She has studied EU migration to the UK since 2016, with a British Academy grant, building an academic network of scholars working on the topic. Her current research focuses on transnational identities and the marginalisation of migrants in the context of Brexit. This piece is based on a pilot study of EU nationals in detention with a view to family reunification and human rights protection.

Residential mobility in the UK: how distance and local economic conditions drive residential choices

Monica Langella and Alan Manning find that high unemployment in an area induces people to move away, and has an even stronger effect on the attractiveness of that area to potential movers. They also find that younger and better-educated individuals are less sensitive to distance and tend to move further away than other groups.

Regional inequalities are strongly persistent in many countries and this can have both economic and political consequences: feeling ‘left behind’ by austerity policies may have had impact on recent electoral outcomes. One mechanism that could smooth out spatial economic differences is migration. For instance, moving to an area with better opportunities can increase the probability of having a job and improve one’s economic prospects. Then, areas with worse economic conditions should experience a decrease in population in favour of areas that start from a better economic situation. Looking at the UK case, data seem to confirm this. Neighbourhoods that had high unemployment in the 1980s tend to have bigger drops in population 40 years later, as Figure 1 shows.

In the same line though, one should also expect that areas would converge over time in terms of economic performance, but that is not what Figure 2 suggests. In the UK, as in many other countries, spatial economic differences are quite persistent.

Note: the models include controls for age distribution, marriage rates, student presence, and education rates.

If populations respond to economic shocks, why is persistence in economic conditions still so strong? Others have shown that, although in the UK migration dynamics do respond to local economic shocks, they are not able to keep up with the speed of economic adjustments. Building from there, we study the dynamics of residential mobility to understand what can explain the slow adjustment. We do so by looking at very detailed data that records moves between census area statistics (CAS) wards – these are areas of approximately 5,000 people, and there are more than 10,000 such wards – both at the aggregate level and at the individual level.

First, we look closely at the role of distance in explaining residential mobility. Most of residential mobility in the UK occurs within regions, as Figure 3 shows, so it is not surprising to find that the relationship between distance and mobility is very strong. For instance, estimating a distance cost function on a full ward-to-ward pair matrix of residential flows, we find that doubling the distance between two places makes the mobility drop by 73.5%.

Figure 3: Percentage of population who moved based on census data

Second, we study the impact of local unemployment on population inflows and outflows. We find that local unemployment negatively affects inflows and positively affects outflows, thus causing people to move away from areas of high unemployment and towards areas of lower unemployment. A 1% increase in unemployment in one area decreases the inflow from 1.5% to 4% in our instrumental variable models, while it increases outflow by about 1.6%.

Third, we use individual level data to study whether different groups of people have different reactions to economic conditions and whether their cost of distance is different. Understanding this is important because the view that migration tends to equalize economic opportunity is based on the idea that migration reduces competition for jobs in the areas left and increases it in the destination areas. Such a conclusion may not be justified if, for example, it was the best educated or the most ambitious who leave an area after a negative labour demand shock – this would alter the skill mix in a way that might worsen labour market prospects for those left behind. For example, recent work suggests that out-migration of young people is likely to have a negative effect on the settlement of new firms in the departure areas.

With this in mind, we look at heterogeneities both to distance and to economic opportunities, for inflows and outflows separately. We find that:

  • younger people and people with higher levels of education tend to move further away, while people in social housing, people who are working, and people with children tend to choose closer destinations;
  • married people are less likely to move to high unemployment areas, as are older people;
  • non-white people are relatively more likely to choose more high unemployment areas, as are those in social housing;
  • regarding outflows, women and people with children are less sensitive to the unemployment in the area, while for married people unemployment appears to matter more.

Overall, we spot some mechanisms that could explain why changes in population are not strong or fast enough to offset the persistence of economic shocks. Mobility is a local phenomenon. People who move do so within a few kilometres from the original location, so they are likely to remain under similar economic conditions. Even though they move locally, people tend to take into account local economic conditions, as unemployment causes both fewer people to move to a certain area and more people to move away from it. Moreover, different groups of people tend to have different dynamics of residential mobility, so it is difficult to assume that the people who leave and the ones that stay in the area are similar. This may have an impact on the potential that migration has in smoothing out special disparities.


Note: the above draws on the authors’ paper for the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance.

About the Authors

Monica Langella is Research Officer at the Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.



Alan Manning isProfessor of Economics at the LSE.




All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of LSE British Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Featured image credit: Pixabay (Public Domain).

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