The appointment of Sajid Javid, the son of an immigrant, as Home Secretary, gives me hope that we can now move towards sensible immigration policies which recognises the benefits that migration brings to this country.
For the last eight years, the Government’s immigration policy has been hostile and economically illiterate.
We would not be one of the top ten economies in the world – with just one per cent of the world’s population – were it not for the positive effects of immigration over the past decades. And yet we also need to have control over our borders and of illegal immigration. Our current immigration policy is unfit for either purpose.
To address this, I recommend the new Home Secretary implement seven changes in policy.
1. Reintroduce exit checks
Since 1998, Britain has not had physical, visible exit checks at our borders. Passports are checked when people enter the country, but not when they leave as they are in many other countries.
The e-borders system we have in place is not good enough – particularly given the serious security and terrorism threats we face. We need to make sure that every passport, EU and non-EU, is scanned on entry and also when people leave the country.
And only by having exit check data will we have a truly accurate picture of net migration. We currently rely on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) for net migration data and, last summer, the Government admitted that IPS figures were experimental – in other words, completely unreliable.
2. Abolish net-migration targets
The Conservatives imposed a target to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. In my view, the net migration target is completely arbitrary and should be scrapped. Immigration needs to be controlled, but not in such a crude manner.
3. Be compliant, not hostile, towards immigration
The Home Office’s recently-retired Head of Immigration Enforcement, David Wood, believes there may be as many as one million undocumented illegal immigrants in this country.
We simply don’t know the true figure, but neither sending vans around the country telling illegal immigrants to go home nor the practice – recently uncovered in investigations into the Windrush scandal – of imposing deportation targets have helped.
As a result of these targets, genuine applications for indefinite leave to remain – which can only be turned down on the basis of a threat to national security – have resulted in some individuals being threatened with deportation because of innocent errors on their tax return.
4. Build free trade deals around movement of people
One mantra at the heart of Brexit is ‘Britain going global’ and forging trade deals around the world, including with India.
Yet, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi very clearly alluded to during Theresa May’s visit in 2016, trade deals are not just about goods and tariffs; they are about the movement of people.
Theresa May, even brought up the issue of Indian migrants overstaying their visas during that visit. This was no way to win friends or use our global influence, and it means British business is losing out on tourism and business from India.
We must ensure that every imbalance is redressed – for example where Chinese business visitors and tourists may acquire two-year multiple entry visas at a reduced price of £85; for Indians, the price is still £388.
5. Meet the demand for skills
Good immigration policies allow immigration to fill the gaps in the British economy, filling vacancies, whether it is doctors or nurses required by the NHS or chefs for the multi-billion pound curry industry which generates millions of pounds for the exchequer annually making it Britain’s favourite food.
Across the board, with a 4.2% rate of unemployment in the UK, we would have an acute labour shortage without workers from overseas, skilled and unskilled, including the 3.7million EU citizens in the UK.
Hostility to workers from overseas has resulted in proposals – such as Amber Rudd’s proposal for British companies to list foreign workers – that would make Britain’s businesses suffer and Britain’s economy suffer, let alone the British consumer. It is economically illiterate.
6. Welcome international students
I am President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, which looks after the interests of the 438,000 international students in the UK who contribute £25billion to the economy.
There is cross-party support in both Houses of Parliament – and to my knowledge from most members of the Cabinet, not to mention the public – to remove international students from net migration calculations.
This Government must also reintroduce the two-year post-study work visa, which existed from 2008 to 2012, attracting international students by helping them to pay for their education, gain valuable work experience in Britain and also contributing to our economy and our exchequer.
7. Look ahead to Brexit
Far from being a burden on this country, the 3.7million EU citizens in this country contribute six times more than they take out in public services, and operate at every level from low skilled to high skilled, in both the public and private sectors. They even make up 20% of academics at out leading universities.
In today’s globalized world, we need access to the best talent which has been easily available in the EU thanks to the single market; we mustn’t lose this advantage.
The Home Office’s hostile attitude needs to be completely eradicated, whether it is towards students or immigrants working in the UK. These seven policies should take the place of the ill-informed, hostile and economically illiterate attitude that this Government has shown to date on immigration.
Lord Bilimoria is the Founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer, President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs and Founding Chairman of the UK-India Business Council