Today’s announcement of a crackdown on illegal migration to coincide with ONS latest figure on net migration is misleading. Clearly, undocumented migration has nothing, or only marginally, to do with net migration as the latter are a measure of legal migration only.
So the announced measures were just an attempt (mostly successful only with Tory media) to divert attention away from what is a remarkable failure of Cameron’s previous government to deliver on its own immigration pledge (for a critique of the immigration pledge see here).
We have also witnessed a poor attempt by Cameron to shift the blame for the failure on Lib Dem. This is totally misleading as the Home Office, and the Immigration portfolio in particular, have been firmly in Tory’s hands throughout the previous government.
Illegal migration in the UK is a much smaller phenomenon that the government would like people to believe. Due to its geographic position and extensive border control, the UK is nothing like the EU southern border, but smuggling and irregular migration in the Med have had extensive coverage in the last few weeks, so this was a classic attempt to bridge the announcement to the Mediterranean crisis story.
It is also remarkable in today’s speech that the government continues to use ‘net migration’ and the pledge to reduce it to ‘tens of thousands’ as a benchmark of its immigration policy despite experts have highlighted several reasons why it is a wrong criterion for immigration policy, not least because the government has no control over emigration. But, perhaps more importantly, high level of immigration in a country with such a low unemployment rate is clearly a sign of an healthy economy that demands more foreign workforce to run.