ALAN MENDOZA: Rishi Sunak's chance to prove he means what he says
ALAN MENDOZA: This is Rishi Sunak’s chance to prove he means what he says on migration… We are living through a demographic revolution that is transforming the very fabric of our society
Only eight months ago the Home Secretary Suella Braverman revived the Tory pledge to get net migration down to ‘the tens of thousands’.
She had the good sense to describe this as her ‘ultimate aspiration’ but yesterday’s report from the Office for National Statistics revealed just how unrealistic an aspiration it is.
In the year ending December 2022, no fewer than 1.2million people settled here, easily a record.
And while 557,000 people moved abroad last year, net immigration still amounted to a colossal 606,000, around 20 per cent higher than the previous record set in the year ending June 2022.
It is no exaggeration to say that we are living through a demographic revolution that is transforming the very fabric of our society.
ALAN MENDOZA: Only eight months ago the Home Secretary Suella Braverman (right, next to Rishi Sunak) revived the Tory pledge to get net migration down to ‘the tens of thousands’
Yet this has been a revolution imposed by Westminster and Whitehall without any democratic mandate.
No party has ever gone into an election advocating an open-door policy and, as a result, the British state has no effective strategy for coping with this dramatic increase in mass immigration.
Not only is social cohesion in danger of being put under stress, but an intolerable strain is being placed on our civic infrastructure.
Supporters of mass immigration argue that it is a catalyst for economic growth, not least because migrants are said to be willing to do the sort of jobs that British people will not.
There is some truth to this, but the cheerleaders for immigration always ignore how increases in population push up the demands on hospitals, schools, GP surgeries and the police, as well as welfare and social services.
It is no exaggeration to say that we are living through a demographic revolution that is transforming the very fabric of our society, writes ALAN MENDOZA (pictured)
And the list of potential problems does not end there. As demonstrated by the current crises over potholes in our roads, and sewage in our rivers, our creaking transport network and water system are struggling to cope with the pressures they are under as things stand.
How will they respond to the introduction of yet more demand?
Meanwhile, we are in the midst of a housing crisis and the figures are a stark reminder that we should be building hundreds of thousands of homes every year to meet demand.
Last year we built 192,000 homes, the highest number since 2007, but still a wholly inadequate total, particularly in light of the numbers involved.
The Government must get a grip and start reducing net migration. This imperative is made all the more pressing because there has been a marked change in the countries of origin of many migrants.
In the decade before Brexit, Europeans made up the majority of new arrivals. Now, according to the latest ONS report, non-EU nationals account for 80 per cent of the influx, with most coming from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
This is not a problem in and of itself, but – when it comes to integration – it does represent a harder challenge than immigration from Europe, which shares with Britain a history and culture.
Arrivals from countries further afield, with different traditions, may prove to have conflicting views, especially on questions such as political liberties, women’s equality, free speech, gay rights and religious tolerance.
This doesn’t mean they cannot make for good neighbours – the majority in fact do – but it does make the drive for integration all the more vital.
ALAN MENDOZA: Rishi Sunak (pictured) has said he believes migration figures are too high. He now has a golden opportunity to show he is a politician who means what he says
Fortunately, there are some indications that numbers will soon start to fall. That is partly because two one-off factors – the war in Ukraine and Communist China’s crackdown on Hong Kong – played a significant part in the surge, accounting for 166,000 of the arrivals.
Neither factor will have the same influence in the future. Moreover, government initiatives should begin to yield results, such as tougher action on illegal Channel crossings and the removal of the right of students to bring dependants.
But ministers need to go much further.
I would argue that the salary threshold for skilled workers’ visas is set too low at £26,200 and encourages the import of cheap foreign labour. A better benchmark would be £33,000, the equivalent of the British median salary.
It is also vital to tackle the asylum backlog which currently stands at over 172,000 cases. Given estimates that the Home Office processes just one asylum claim a week, greater energy must be devoted to the issue.
The same should apply to illegal migrants and overstayers, of whom just 38,000 were removed last year. The Government must act to increase this.
But to do all that will require political will, a quality that has been distinguished by its absence for far too long.
Rishi Sunak has said he believes migration figures are too high. He now has a golden opportunity to show he is a politician who means what he says.
- Alan Mendoza is executive director of the Henry Jackson Society
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