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Immigration and asylum concerns

January 20th, 2003

A letter to the Times which was published on 20th January 2003.

Ann Widdecombe’s defence of her proposed system of secure holding centres for all asylum-seekers (letter, January 16th) is sound as far as it goes.  It does not, however, take the measure of the truly desperate situation which nearly six years of Labour Government has brought about, starting with the abolition of the primary purpose rule and other reversals of the previous Government’s policy.

Asylum and immigration have been confused, deliberately so in my view, by the supposed labour shortages in the British economy.  With 15 million currently unemployed, 155,000 jobs lost in manufacturing last year (Business, January 16th), many thousands currently being made redundant in the IT and financial sectors, and possibly one third of 16-year-olds (around 250,000 per year) according to the Department for Education and Skills ill-equipped to participate fully in the economy, we have in this country not a labour shortage, but a massively unbalanced labour force.  The few hundred degree-holders among the hundreds of thousands in the asylum/immigration queue are very unlikely to have the practical skills this country really needs.  The overwhelming majority will not even speak English.

A complete moratorium on non-patrial immigration and asylum for, say, five years is the only measure which will allow the backlog of what I estimate to be between 500,000 and a million asylum-seekers and dependants to be cleared.

The Government could also use this five-year breathing space to enact enforceable laws for asylum and immigration drawn up after consultation with the British people, preferably in conformity with a new international convention to replace the outdated 1951 Convention on Refugees, but if necessary without it.