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February 2001, Volume 8, Number 2

UK, Ireland

The Home Office released a report in January 2001 that estimated that between 150,000 and 175,000 immigrants a year from outside the EU will enter the UK for the next 20 years. In 1998, there were 150,000 non-EU immigrants, a year in which total net immigration was 180,000- most of the immigrants were family members joining foreigners who had already received asylum in the UK.

The report, "Migration: an economic and social analysis," concluded that Britain's foreign-born population paid L2.6 billion or 10 percent more in government revenues than they received in government-funded benefits. Immigration was thus economically beneficial and also enhanced art, culture and fashion. Immigration Minister Barbara Roche said: " Immigration is good for us. Self-selection by migrants is likely to mean that they are more resourceful, entrepreneurial and ambitious than the norm…The UK is a nation of immigrants…We should be able to discuss immigration in a proper way." For more information:

Immigrants were estimated to be 31 percent of Britain's doctors, 13 percent of nurses and to hold 70 percent of London catering jobs. In a conclusion similar to that reached by the US National Research Council in 1997, the report emphasized that attention to the average gain from immigration masked both the significant benefits from well-educated and high income immigrants, and the public finance deficits that often accompany low-skill migration. One Indian immigrant, Perween Warsi, created a $100 million a year business employing 1,300 that prepares Asian meals.

Britain's National Statistics Agency reported that faster economic growth in the late 1990s attracted foreign professional and managerial workers to London and the Southeast of England, restraining wage growth. Employment in London and the Southeast was 8,000 a month larger than expected in late 2000 due to the immigration of IT specialists and multilingual employees of call centers from the EU and from Commonwealth countries.

Some 266,000 foreign students entered the UK in 1998. About 12 percent of those admitted and granted visas are denied entry upon their arrival because immigration officials believe they will stay.

Asylum. Ferry operator P&O Stena Line discovered about 10 migrants a day in vehicles waiting in Calais for transport to the UK since it began mandatory searches in December 2000. Stena, which operates 35 ferries daily from Calais, has paid about L100,000 pounds in immigration fines since 1998- the fine is L2,000 or $2,900 for each migrant found in the UK.

In February 2000, an Ariana Airlines plane on an internal flight was hijacked in Afghanistan and wound up in the UK. Many of the passengers, some of whom were related to the hijackers, applied for asylum. Jack Straw, the home secretary, said that all the passengers should be returned, but as of January 2001, 88 were still in Britain.

Home Minister Barbara Roche said that 7,600 people were deported after being denied asylum in 1999, the highest figure ever. The combined total of illegal immigrants and refused asylum applicants deported had risen from 26,000 in 1996 to almost 38,000 in 1999, with 42,000 so far counted during 2000.

There were 76,000 asylum applications in 2000; Roche put the cost of the UK asylum system at L1.1 billion a month. On average, about 12 percent of asylum applicants are accepted as refugees. About 10 percent of those whose applications are rejected are removed forcibly, which leads to estimates that there may be 150,000 to 200,000 failed asylum seekers in the UK.

The UK removed 46,635 foreigners in 2000, including 8,965 failed asylum seekers (excluding dependents). Some 1,200 foreigners were in detention at the end of 2000.

A Turkish asylum seeker is in critical condition after he was beaten on December 24, 2000 in southeast London by three men in an attack that appeared to be motivated by racial hatred. Police are continuing to look for three young men who are considered suspects in the case. Another attack on December 31 occurred in London's West End when an Algerian man was stabbed repeatedly. Police believe that attack to be also racially motivated.

As immigration into the UK increases, there are more complaints of gangmasters or labor contractors exploiting vulnerable immigrants by paying them low wages and not paying required taxes. The use of gangmaster-organized crews of asylum-seekers, illegal migrants and students has spread from agriculture in the eastern counties of England to the construction, holiday and tourism, commercial packing and contract cleaning industries. In April 2000, there was a fight among workers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Poland and Bosnia in an onion field near Worcestershire.

Operation Gangmaster, a special enforcement effort in Lancashire, the West Midlands, the South Coast, the South-east and the South-west, aims to require contractors to pay at least minimum wages and required payroll taxes- several have been convicted of evading up to L500,000 in taxes. Operation Gangmaster has distributed 60,000 pamphlets, including 10,000 in Russian and Polish; the government has also increased the number of legal foreign farm workers who can be admitted seasonally from 10,000 to 15,500 in 2001. The UK also has a "working holidaymakers" program that allows persons ages 17 to 27 from Commonwealth countries to work for up to two years in non-professional jobs.

Unions want to require contractors to be licensed, as farm labor contractors are in the US.

Ireland. In January 2001, Ireland was the only EU country without carrier sanctions, which are fines on owners of ships and planes that bring unauthorized migrants into the country. This may change. The proposed Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Bill would fine carriers L2500 per migrant to "encourage carriers to carry out checks which ensure that persons who do not have the documents necessary for travel to Ireland are not allowed onto aircraft or ships bound for Ireland."

The Irish Refugee Council voiced opposition, saying, "We're against carriers' liability legislation because it takes the onus of responsibility from governments and puts it on to private individuals."

Ireland issued 18,000 one-year work permits to non-EU foreigners in 2000, plus 1,400 fast-track work visas, which are two-year permits that allow foreign professionals to bring their families with them to Ireland. Work permits are given to employers, not employees, which ties the foreigner to a particular employer.

Ron Mackenna, "Thousands of asylum seekers on the way," The Scotsman, January 29, 2001. Ian Burrell, "Immigrants are better workers says home office," Independent, January 23, 2001. Paul Waugh, "Asylum voucher system under fire from stores," The Independent, January 17, 2001. Colman Cassiday, "Transport firms face fines under Immigration Bill," Irish Times, January 11, 2001. Vanessa Allen, "Asylum seeker critical after brutal beating," Press Association, January 3, 2001. "Ireland plans to penalize carriers of illegal immigrants," Agence France Presse, January 10, 2001. Greg Hurst, "Parties claim: we are toughest on asylum," The Times, January 9, 2001.