UK immigration minister lays out plan to fight illegal immigration

The United Kingdom's Immigration Minister, Damian Green MP, has announced a range of measures to cut immigration to the UK. He said that, during the last Labour government, which ruled from 1997 to 2010, immigration controls had been too loose. 3.5m immigrants settled in the UK, many of them from the ten eastern European countries which joined the European Union in 2004.

Mr Green said that this level of immigration had put enormous pressure on the United Kingdom's infrastructure. Schools, transport systems and the National Health Service had all been put under severe pressure. At the same time, some employers had taken advantage of immigration to find cheap, sometimes illegal, labour. Speaking on LBC Radio, a London news station, on Sunday 26th August 2012, Mr Green likened the Labour government's immigration policy to an 'oil tanker steaming hard in the wrong direction'.

Mr Green said, there had been 'a failure of mainstream politics' to confront the issue of immigration for too long. It had been seen as 'almost impolite' to attempt to grapple with the issue. As a result, immigration had gone unchecked and extremist parties such as the BNP had been able to gain support from frustrated Britons. 'They (The BNP) rose at a time when politicians were afraid to talk about immigration so it's very important that mainstream, moderate politicians of all parties actually deal with it as a problem,' Mr Green said.

Mr Green said that the Coalition government was now implementing several strategies to reduce the numbers of illegal immigrants in the UK. He said that many people who were working illegally in the UK 'are people who came here on a student visa, did study for one year or maybe didn't study at all, but then hang around after their visa is over and it's clear that their main intention for coming here was to work. That kind of abuse enrages people.' He said that the government was cracking down on bogus educational establishments to prevent abuse of the education visa system. At the same time, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had begun a campaign in May 2012 to find and expel people who were working illegally. He said that 2,000 students who had remained in Britain after their student visas had expired and had been working in the UK had been expelled from the country since May.

Mr Green also said that the government intended to introduce legislation which would make it harder to abuse the country's marriage laws. He said 'we're going to give the powers [to the registrar] to say "Actually, I'm not going to marry you because this doesn't look like a proper marriage to me." '

Finally, Mr Green said that the government would crack down on overseas benefits claimants. Mr Green said that 370,000 who came to the UK as visitors, students or workers are now on benefits. Foreign born claimants are said to make up 6.5% of the total number on benefits. Mr Green said that a campaign to reduce this figure will begin next month. 20,000 people who came to the UK from outside the EU and are on benefits will receive a letter from the UK government's Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) demanding a photocopy of their passport or resident permit within 28 days. If the recipient of a letter cannot comply with the request, they must email the UKBA and provide a range of information to identify themselves.

However, Mr Green had a more conciliatory message in an article he wrote for British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, on Monday 27th August. He said that the Tories must 'stick to our plans to reduce immigration' but said that the party must also welcome modern Britain's cultural diversity if it wishes to appeal to all sectors of society. 'If we don't like modern Britain', he wrote, 'then it is very unlikely that modern Britain will like us.'

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