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Theresa May unveils Tory immigration plans

Theresa May unveils Tory immigration plans

Angry cat
“I’m not making this up…” By Tomi Tapio K, on Flickr

Self-styled Theresa ‘CRAZY’ May, our esteemed Home Secretary, has unveiled a range of hardline new immigration measures at the Conservative Party conference. I’ve added the capitals, but in relating her little anecdote about Abu Qatada she seems happy enough to be associated with the moniker:

I was told a story by one of our immigration officials who was there when Qatada finally got on the plane.  As the official signed off the last of the paperwork, Qatada looked at him and asked, “is Crazy May flying with me?”  I admit I was crazy – crazy with the European Court of Human Rights – and I know I wasn’t the only one.

You can read the full text of the speech here, and I’ve pasted the relevant parts in at the bottom of this post in case it disappears from the Conference website. The measures include:

  • Scrap the Human Rights Act. This will be a Conservative Party manifesto commitment.
  • Consider withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, and presumably therefore also the Council of Europe. This is something that Russia and Turkey have previously been unwilling to do because even they think it is too CRAZY.
  • Cut appeal rights in immigration rights from 17 to four. The 17 seems to be an imaginary figure given appeal rights are currently to the First-tier Tribunal, the Upper Tribunal, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. CRAZY May, that’s already only four.
  • Reduce the number of appeal hearings by half. And therefore double immigration judicial reviews.
  • Introduce ‘non suspensive’ appeals for foreign criminals and perhaps others, whereby lodging an appeal does not suspend or prevent removal from the UK. Essentially, the appeal can only be pursued from abroad and the person will be readmitted if they manage to win the appeal.
  • A new Immigration Bill will “sort out the abuse of Article Eight”. Here in her speech CRAZY May plays pretty fast and loose with the legal facts, and not for the first time. No judge thinks Article 8 is absolute, the Commons ‘debate’ was a farce, the judges continued to obey the will of full Parliament (Commons, Lords, Queen) by continuing to apply the Human Rights Act as required by their judicial oaths and the Home Office conceded in court that the new rules did not do away with the infamous Article 8. Nevertheless, it is clear that the new legislation will make it harder or impossible for families to succeed in staying together if the Immigration Rules are not satisfied.
  • A new Modern Slavery Bill, which will

bring into a single Act the confusing array of human trafficking offences.  It will give the authorities the powers they need to investigate, prosecute and lock up the slave drivers.  And it will make sure that there are proper punishments for the perpetrators of these appalling crimes.

There then follows in the speech a long passage celebrating reductions in immigration, a lengthy diatribe against the Lib Dems and a short jab at Labour before CRAZY May moves on to the police and other issues.

It looks like even tougher times ahead not just for foreign criminals but for the ordinary families caught out by our increasingly tough and inflexible immigration rules. More analysis to follow once the Bill is published.

Parts of the speech relating to immigration issues:

Deporting foreign criminals

But it’s ridiculous that the British Government should have to go to such lengths to get rid of dangerous foreigners.  That’s why the next Conservative manifesto will promise to scrap the Human Rights Act.  It’s why Chris Grayling is leading a review of our relationship with the European Court.  And it’s why the Conservative position is clear – if leaving the European Convention is what it takes to fix our human rights laws, that is what we should do.

Those are issues for the general election, when Labour and the Lib Dems will have to explain why they value the rights of terrorists and criminals more than the rights of the rest of us.  In the meantime, we need to do all we can now to limit the damage.

The Government will soon publish the Immigration Bill, which will make it easier to get rid of people with no right to be here.

First, we’re going to cut the number of appeal rights.  At the moment, the system is like a never-ending game of snakes and ladders, with almost 70,000 appeals heard every year.  The winners are foreign criminals and immigration lawyers – while the losers are the victims of these crimes and the public.  So we’re going to cut the number of appeal rights from seventeen to four, and in doing so cut the total number of appeals by more than half.

Last year, human rights were cited in almost 10,000 immigration appeal cases.  So the second thing we will do is extend the number of non-suspensive appeals.  This means that where there is no risk of serious and irreversible harm, we should deport foreign criminals first and hear their appeal later.

And third, the Immigration Bill will sort out the abuse of Article Eight – the right to a family life – once and for all.  This is used by thousands of people to stay in Britain every year.  The trouble is, while the European Convention makes clear that a right to a family life is not absolute, judges often treat it as an unqualified right.

That’s why I published new Immigration Rules stating that foreign criminals and illegal immigrants should ordinarily be deported despite their claim to a family life.  Those Rules were debated in the House of Commons, and they were approved unanimously.  But some judges chose to ignore Parliament and go on putting the law on the side of foreign criminals instead of the public.  So I am sending a very clear message to those judges – Parliament wants the law on the people’s side, the public wants the law on the people’s side, and Conservatives in government will put the law on the people’s side once and for all.

Cutting immigration

It is a simple question of fairness.  Because it’s not the rich who lose out when immigration is out of control, it’s people who work hard for a modest wage.

They’re the people who live in communities that struggle to deal with sudden social changes, who rely on public services that can’t cope with demand, who lose out on jobs and have their wages forced down when immigration is too high.

That’s why we’re cutting immigration across the board.  Work visas are down by seven per cent.  Family visas are down by a third.  And student visas – which were abused on an industrial scale under Labour – are also down by a third.  Many of these people weren’t students at all – such was the scale of abuse under Labour, we’ve cut the number of student visas issued each year by more than 115,000.

Immigration is down by almost a fifth since 2010 and net migration is down by a third.  And that means hardworking people are getting a fairer crack of the whip.  Under Labour, in the five years to December 2008, more than ninety per cent of the increase in employment was accounted for by foreign nationals.  But under this Government, two thirds of the increase in employment is accounted for by British people.

That’s an achievement to be proud of.  But I want to tell you about an even bigger achievement.  Yes, our drive to cut immigration has been so successful, even the Liberal Democrats are boasting about it in their campaign handbook.  I don’t remember their enthusiasm for cutting immigration when we worked on the policies – so I’m going to take this with me next time they try to block our reforms.

The latest policy they’re fighting is immigration bonds.  It’s a simple idea – the government should be able to take a £3,000 deposit from temporary migrants and return it when they leave.  If they overstay their visa, they’ll lose their money.

Bonds were in our manifesto at the last election.  But the Lib Dems suddenly announced that it was their idea.  Then they said they were against them.  Then they said they were for them – but only to help more immigrants to come here.  Now they say they’re against them after all.  They were for them, then they were against them… then they were for them, and now they’re against them.

Confused?  Don’t be – the simple conclusion is you can only trust the Conservatives on immigration.

And let me be clear – if the price of Lib Dem support for bonds is more immigration, I will scrap the scheme altogether.

Let’s not forget about Labour.  In just thirteen years, up to four million people settled in Britain.  But they still won’t admit they let immigration get out of control.  In fact, in June, Chuka Umunna let slip they’re considering a target to increase immigration.  I suppose at least this time they’re being honest about it.  But I’ve got news for you, Ed: the British people don’t want it, they’ll never vote for it, and that means they’re never going to vote for you.

So let’s pay tribute to the Conservative Immigration Ministers – first Damian Green and now Mark Harper – for getting immigration down.  And let’s get out there and shout about it.  The British people want less immigration – and that’s exactly what this Government is delivering.


Colin Yeo
Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder and editor of the Free Movement immigration law website.

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