The Leaders debate and the Opposition Leaders debate highlighted the differing views on immigration, which continue to be an important issue for voters. The key themes amongst the parties include pledges on: EU migration, border control, students, migrant employment, English tests, immigration detention and Human Rights.
Another area of interest is that of whether or not negotiations on freedom of movement will be possible under EU law. While freedom of movement and the European Convention of Human Rights are important topics on their own they often interlink with immigration.
With all of the parties commenting on immigration restrictions, there are plans to monitor borders including employing extra Border staff and inspectors. Although restrictions are at the forefront, there is some recognition of the benefits of immigration, including recognition of the importance of international students.
While the leaders recognise both the benefits of immigration and the importance of restrictions, the question is: What actions do they plan to take if they are elected?
The manifesto pledges in alphabetical order:
- If an EU migrant’s child is abroad they will not receive child benefit or child tax credit no matter how long they have worked in the UK.
- An end to jobseeking benefits for EU migrants.
- A continued cap at 20,700 persons on skilled economic migration from outside the UK.
- A ‘deport first, appeal later’ rule for all immigration appeals and judicial reviews, including where a right to family life is involved, apart from asylum claims.
- A Controlling Migration Fund for communities experiencing high and unexpected volumes of immigration to ease pressures on services and to pay for additional immigration enforcement.
- Those who regularly utilise the Shortage Occupation List, under which they can bring skilled workers to the UK, will require to provide long-term plans for training British workers.
- Scrap the Human Rights Act and the role of the European Court of Human rights will be curtailed.
You can find the full Conservative party manifesto, here.
- Respect for mutual legal obligations within the EU on freedom of movement.
- Respect for international obligations to accept refugees, whether they are seeking sanctuary from wars, political repression or climate change.
- Removal of the policy requiring British citizens to have an income of at least £18,600 before their partners can come to live in the UK.
- No restrictions on foreign students including allowing students to work in the UK for two years after graduation, and widening of the Youth Mobility Scheme to allow those from poorer countries to participate.
- A stop to prospective immigrants being held in detention.
- Review of access to legal advice, childcare and subsistence allowance and reintroduction of legal aid for reasonable areas of immigration and asylum work.
- Retention of the Human rights act and continued membership of the European Convention of Human Rights.
You can find the full Green party manifesto, here.
- An additional 1,000 Borders staff.
- Full exit checks to count people in and out of the country.
- A ban on recruitment agencies hiring only from overseas and a crackdown on rogue agencies by extending the Gangmasters Licence Authority.
- EU migrants will not be able to claim benefits for 2 years.
- An end to indefinite detention of people in the asylum and immigration system.
- Refuge for those fleeing persecution by upholding international obligations, including working with the UN to support vulnerable refugees from Syria.
- Protection of the Human Rights Act and reforming rather than walking away from the European Court of Human Rights.
You can find the full Labour party manifesto, here.
- Ensure the UK is an attractive destination for overseas students, particularly those who wish to study STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
- Reinstatement of the post-study work visas for STEM graduates who can find graduate-level employment within 6 months of completing their degree.
- Working age asylum seekers who have waited more than 6 months for their claim to be processed will require to seek work like other benefit claimants, and only receive benefits if they are unable to do so.
- An end to the ‘azure card’ which can only be used in certain shops and supermarkets, for administrating benefits to asylum seekers.
- Presentation to Parliament of an annual assessment of skill and labour market shortfalls and surpasses and their impact on the economy, public services and local communities, with an audit report on the migration control system.
- Protection of the Human Rights Act.
You can find the full Liberal Democrat party manifesto, here.
- Changes to the Shortage Occupation List to recognise specific skill needs in the Video games sector.
- The reintroduction of the post-study work visa so that students who have been educated in Scotland can spend 2 years working here after their studies and can contribute to the economy.
- Scottish participation in the European Arrest warrant, a measure that makes it easier to bring to justice criminals that have fled to other EU jurisdictions.
- A request to the UK Government for an early review of the current immigration detention system.
- Oppose scrapping of the Human Rights Act or withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.
You can find the full SNP party manifesto, here.
- An increase of Borders Agency staff by 2,500.
- A Migration Control Commission to oversee an Australian-style points system with a strict mandate to significantly reduce the numbers of people migrating to the UK.
- A limit to highly-skilled work visas of 50,000 per annum including those from the EU.
- All new migrants will require to make tax and national insurance contributions for 5 consecutive years before they will be eligible to claim benefits, or access to more than non-urgent NHS services apart from any exceptions stipulated by the Migrant Control Commission.
- British citizens who choose to fight alongside terrorist organisations will effectively abdicate their rights to citizenship. There will be an amendment to the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 to make enlistment in violent armed groups or transnational terror organisations a crime and a means to revoke their citizenship and prevent their repatriation.
- An end to the EU freedom of movement of people.
- British businesses will be allowed to choose to employ British citizens first.
- Removal of the UK from the jurisdiction of the European court on Human Rights and an end to the Human Rights Act.
You can find the full UKIP party manifesto, here.
The presence of migrants in the UK has been covered throughout the election campaign; and the present discourse amongst the parties' is reflective of the pledges which have been published. There is a lot to consider, and the devil may be in the detail but what is clear is that this is a very important issue for many and quite emotive for some.
You can also listen to our podcast, to learn more about the proposed changes ahead of the 2015 general election.