Immigration Reform in the UK: New Policies and Areas for International Cooperation
On Wednesday, November 17 GMF’s Immigration and Integration program in cooperation with the British Embassy in Washington, DC held the third event in the Taking the Immigration Debate Across Borders: GMF Embassy Event Series in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill. The event focused on immigration reform in the United Kingdom and areas of cooperation on immigration policy between the U.K. and the United States. Damian Green, U.K. Minister of State for Immigration and Lin Homer, Chief Executive of the U.K. Border Agency served as panelists and the event was moderated by Jim Kolbe, GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow.
GMF President, Craig Kennedy began with a welcome address and was followed by an introduction of the session and panelists by Jim Kolbe. Minister Green delivered remarks focused on the priorities of the new government’s immigration policy and provided context on the thinking behind recent reforms. The Minister clarified that the government is placing a priority on shaping policy that addresses all migrants: legal, illegal and those seeking asylum. He acknowledged that immigration was a central issue in his country’s recent elections, but emphasized his party and others worked towards promoting and maintaining a moderate discourse on immigration to curtail the influence of radical parties. Minister Green went on to address the recent immigration cap in the U.K. and stated the priority of his government in forming this cap is to create a smarter, not a tougher, immigration policy. Ensuring there are ample opportunities for British citizens while also leaving room to attract the best and brightest talent is a balance his office is trying to attain. The Minister also clarified that prior to the finalization of the immigration cap in April 2011 his office will continued their dialogue with stakeholders in the private sector, both domestic and international, to ensure their concerns are heard and incorporated. An immediate outcome from these exchanges is exemptions for inter-company transfers. He stated he will continue this dialogue and will be meeting with businesses as part of this trip to Washington.
In the Q&A that followed questions touched upon language requirements, family reunification policies, U.K. – EU relations on immigration policy and border security, and the fate of government sponsored language courses in a time of austerity. Both Lin Homer and Minister Green responded to the questions and made it clear that English language attainment is fundamental to social cohesion in the U.K. They also stated that the U.K. considers itself to be an enthusiastic member of the EU and partner with countries such as Greece to assist in mitigating illegal migration. Minister Green also touched upon cooperation with Turkey, a country experiencing increased levels of transit migration, in forming ‘return assistance programs’ for those fleeing conflict zones. A question was also posed about the integration of Muslim groups. Minister Green clarified this is not entirely under the purview of his office, but stated the current government is making a concerted effort to no longer address Muslims as a singular community but rather as a part of a broader diverse community with various needs.