Immigration briefing

With a major overhaul of Britain’s immigration policy due in early 2008, the Consular Corps welcomed the FCO’s Director of Migration to brief consuls on the overall immigration strategy.

Addressing an audience of over 60 consuls, Judith Macgregor outlined the new strategy to better manage legal migration, and combat illegal migration

Ms Macgregor said the 80 routes into the UK would be simplified into a five-tier points system – highly skilled workers (replacing the HSMP), skilled workers with sponsorship (replacing the work permit scheme), low-skilled workers, and students and temporary workers/youth mobility.

Implementation would begin in early 2008, with the rollout of Tier 1 for highly skilled workers. Visitor and Settlement visas would be separate from the Points Based System.

She also highlighted measures to combat illegal immigration with the introduction of the new UK Border Agency, uniting immigration, customs and visa checks under a single agency.

Entry clearance officers at all British posts will soon be issuing biometric visas, she added, and said successful trials had detected 1-2% of visa abuse.

Reminding consuls that migration affected developing countries too, Ms Macgregor outlined measures to combat the brain drain of key workers and simplifying the way remittances are sent home.

Also part of the FCO strategy are measures for the safe return of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers, including various Assisted Voluntary Return Schemes which had already helped 6,000 returnees. She thanked Consuls for help in providing the travel documentation to expedite returnees.

While statistics show that migrants benefit the economy, a better assessment of the needs of the economy and local authorities is required, she said, which is why the Migration Impacts Forum was set up as well as Migration Advisory Committee.

Stressing that migration policies need good statistics, Ms Macgregor admitted gathering these statistics was complex.

The presentation generated much interest, with consuls being better placed to inform their citizens