So, following the Brexit referendum, the UK government wants to end the free movement of persons within Europe which is one of the keystones of the European Community. The newly appointed ministers will have a baffling time introducing the new policy.
Already the dreams entertained by the worst xenophobes and racists backing the Brexit vote, of ridding the UK of its Polish builders, Italian and Spanish hospital workers, German doctors, Lithuanian fruit-pickers and so on have been dispelled – by none other than one of the chief flag carriers for the Brexit cause.
Amid the fog of uncertainty, the 3 million Europeans already living and working in the UK have been told they can stay : “‘It’s a legal right, if you’ve been here five years you have indefinite leave to remain anyway ” said London’s Brexit minister David Davis.
He added during Conservative Party question and answer session: “ In fact, if anybody in the audience has been here two and a half years by the time we leave they’ll have been here five years and so there’s no risk to them.”
So just three months after the vote, one of the chief factors behind the anti Europe referendum has proved to be a chimera.
Although ostensibly about Europe, the vote in fact revealed general discontent in Britain with immigration as a whole. Uncontrolled or illegal immigration may be a subject for concern but in reality, it has little to do with Europe.
The British government has no accurate figures on the number of illegal immigrants in the UK today. According to a right-wing campaign group, Migration Watch, there are 1.1 million illegals. Other researchers have quoted lower figures but most agree the total is at least three-quarters of a million.
By definition, none of them are Europeans who currently are perfectly entitled to come to the UK. So who are the illegals and how did they get into the country?
The main categories are: people who arrive with limited-time visitor visas and stay on; those with student visas who stay on after studies; some who are smuggled into the country in lorries etc; and asylum seekers.
For the very significant number of asylum seekers, the chances of staying in the UK and disappearing into the landscape are good. Only a small number of asylum seekers arriving at airports are held in detention by the authorities while their case is investigated. There are only 3500 places in the Home Office detention centres which are full.
As far as the “overstayers” are concerned, the countries of origin quoted in the research are, as one would expect, Indian sub-continent countries, but also Brazil and some African nations.
Visas will continue to be issued to people wanting to go to the British Isles. The country, with its diverse population, will always be a popular destination for those wanting to see family members. Equally, the country can expect to go on attracting foreign students, to say nothing of tourists who are vital to the economy.
Already, the pre-Brexit government of David Cameron attempted to tighten up immigration requirements with new legislation (Immigration Act 2016) but the effects are only expected to be marginal.
Barrister Asad Ali Khan, an authority on immigration matters said: “Slippery politicians used the panic surrounding immigration as a convenient weapon to arouse the public’s prejudices in order to swing the vote in favour of Brexit. It seems to have been a worthless thing to vote for because the influx of foreigners into the UK will not diminish.”
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