Damian Green says the coalition government will make sure that Britain maximises from the benefits of immigration.
Speaking to the Royal Commonwealth Society yesterday evening, the minister said that Britain has always benefited from immigration, ‘but it will only continue to do so if it is properly controlled.’
‘This means that the unsustainable levels of net migration seen in recent years must be brought down,’ he continued.
Decisions based on evidence
He said the government is determined to make decisions based on evidence - which is why it has just released new research called The Migrant Journey.
For the first time, it gives evidence about the behaviour of immigrants coming to the UK through all managed routes apart from the visitors’ routes.
It reveals that the largest group in the study were students, with around 186,000 granted visas in 2004. More than a fifth of those were still in the UK five years later.
‘We need to understand more clearly why a significant proportion of students are still here more than five years after their arrival. And we also need a system which can scrutinise effectively, and if necessary take action against those whose long-term presence would be of little or no economic benefit,’ said Mr Green.
Skilled people for skilled jobs
He said there is also some evidence that not all those coming in under the highly skilled route for work are doing specialised jobs.
He has been ‘struck’ by some of the individual applications he has seen under the skilled worker category: ‘people running take-away restaurants and production line workers on salaries in the low £20,000s. These are not the sort of jobs we talk about when we think of bringing in skilled immigrants who have talents not available among our own workforce or the unemployed.’
The minister asserted: ‘We will not make Britain prosperous in the long term by telling our own workers “don’t bother to learn new skills, we can bring them all in from overseas.”’
Relieving pressure on services
While planned changes to the immigration system - which include an annual limit on workers from outside the EU - may be ‘controversial’, they are necessary.
He continued: ‘If we do not create public confidence in our immigration system we will remain vulnerable to those who want to find scapegoats for social problems.’
‘We absolutely need sustainable immigration levels. This will relieve pressure on public services, and stop immigration being such a delicate political issue.’
‘We must be confident enough to say Britain is open for business and study to those who will make this a better country, and a more open society.’