Campaigners call for review of points-based visa system

Community groups receive funding to work with immigration enforcement teams. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

by NADEEM BADSHAH

‘DEPRESSED’ coastal areas and northern towns are set for a boost under the government’s new immigration plans, but a point-based system needs to be reviewed, campaigners have said.

Migrants seeking to come to the UK after Brexit will be given extra points if they agree to take up skilled jobs in northern England and deprived sea-side areas, it was announced in the Queen’s speech.

Those willing to live and work in less wealthier areas outside London and the southeast will have an advantage under the Australian-style points-based scheme proposed by home secretary Priti Patel. Under the proposals, applicants would be scored on their education, salary level, skills and age.

Tamana Aziz, immigration director at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, told Eastern Eye: “Taking more control of immigration and adopting an Australian style points-based system was an objective of the Leave campaign, and key supporter, (now prime minister) Boris Johnson, had asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to take an in-depth look into the
system in attempt to bring down net migration.

“The government’s current announcement that migrants and skilled workers will be encouraged to work in northern towns will help bring additional skills to the areas and will benefit economic growth.

“The home secretary has promised to assist those migrants moving to Britain if they are willing to settle outside of London.

“Although this news may assist many migrants and EU nationals after Brexit as competition in London is tough and limited job opportunities are available, the government will need to make the system clearer and easier, as points-based systems are flawed on a number of levels due to their complexity and, in places vagueness, ultimately meaning that they do not work.”

Patel is aiming to spread skilled migrants around the country by awarding a higher score to those willing to work in low-income areas.

Whitehall sources say the aim is to ensure that deprived regions, as well as areas that have taken in many unskilled migrants receive a fair share of skilled workers.

Home secretary Priti Patel is is aiming to spread skilled migrants around the country by awarding a higher score to those willing to work in low-income areas

The home secretary wrote to the Migration Advisory Committee asking it to review if Australia’s points-based migration system could work in Britain. The committee has been asked to report back by January 2020.

In recent years, schools in poorer areas have struggled to recruit teachers and parts of the Midlands, Humberside and the northeast of England have had difficulty in recruiting GPs.

Nazek Ramadan, director of charity Migrant Voice, said it is concerned the proposals could take power away from employers and employees and “handing it to a  government that has so far been hostile to all migrants who aren’t considered the ‘best and brightest’, and could lead to racial, gender and age discrimination.”

She told Eastern Eye: “This feels like a new and underhand attempt to put a cap on migration and an attempt to appease right-wing voters – not a progressive vision of a fair migration system.

“Reducing a person’s value to an arbitrary number of points is crude, subjective and unhelpfully narrow – not to mention that, like any kind of salary threshold, those who reach the magic number under a points-based system will likely be those with the biggest earning potential, not  those lower paid workers who are so vital to our country.”

Ramadan added: “The suggestion that people could win extra points by being willing to settle outside the south east epitomises the problem of the government seizing control. People will naturally move to where their labour is needed and wanted – this is not a process that can or should be engineered by a government for political reasons.

“A system where migrant workers can come to the UK to do jobs that are wanted and
needed, where they are paid fairly for their work and treated fairly by their employers, where they are valued beyond their earning potential and welcomed as human beings into our communities – that’s the system that’s in everyone’s best interests.”

Immigration officials in Australia assess skilled worker visa applications awarding points
for proficiency in English, work experience and age. Canada and New Zealand have also adopted a points-style system for skilled migration.

Karendeep Kaur is a senior immigration consultant at Migrate UK law firm. She is concerned an Australian-style system threatened to “sideline lower-skilled migrants”, adding: “For EU citizens, the decision of a deal or no-deal Brexit is still at the forefront of their status… Until we have clarification…, EU nationals must assume a worst-case scenario and protect themselves.”

Meanwhile, a study found that traditional industrial areas have suffered a “gene drain” with those who are healthier and better qualified leaving for urban centres such as London.

Research plotted the movement and DNA of around 450,000 people enrolled in the UK
Biobank, which records the genetic data of Britons since 2006. Of 31 traits measured,
such as those linked to body mass index, educational attainment and mental health, some 21 showed regional clusters. Genes linked to lower educational attainment were more common in poorer areas of the UK such as former coal mining regions in the North.