Migrants must be the right people, says minister


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High-earning migrants and promising student entrepreneurs will find it easier to work in Britain as the Government aims to ensure only "the right people are coming here", the Immigration Minister said today.

Damian Green said middle managers, unskilled labourers and those seeking benefits would be kept out as the Government seeks only those migrants who "add to the quality of life in Britain".

It is time to move away from the debate over numbers, be more selective, and ask "how we can benefit from immigration", he said.

His call comes after the Government's immigration advisers found there were up to 23 fewer jobs for British workers for every additional 100 working migrants coming from outside the EU.

The Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) said that considering the impact of migration on national output, GDP, "does not present a true picture" and the economic well-being of the resident population should be the focus instead.

"I believe it changes the whole intellectual basis of the immigration debate," Mr Green said.

"It supports a more selective approach to non-EU migration. We need to know not just that the right numbers of people are coming here, but that the right people are coming here."

The Government was considering changing the rules "so that jobs for high earners do not need to be advertised here first", he added.

"That would make it easier for employers to recruit the most economically valuable migrants to come here."

Mr Green said he also wanted to bring in a new route to make it easier for "international students who have engaged in supervised entrepreneurial activity during their university studies in the UK and who want to stay on after their studies to develop their ideas".

But bringing in any migrants who would be economically dependent on the state or who can "play no role in the life of this country" is unacceptable, he said.

Instead "everyone who comes here must be selected to make a positive contribution".

And new specialist routes will be developed further to improve the visa system for short-term business visitors and entertainers, encouraging world-class performers to come to Britain.

The Government has pledged to cut net migration from the current 242,000 to the "tens of thousands" last seen in the 1990s, with crackdowns on forced and sham marriages, bogus students and an annual cap on immigrants coming from outside the EU.

Speaking at the Policy Exchange think-tank in central London, Mr Green said new rules on family migration will "set out to Parliament the Government's view on how the balance between individual rights and the public interest should be struck".

He said the interpretation of Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights, the right to a family life, had led to a "ridiculous and damaging situation" where the whole concept of human rights had been called into question.

"That is not healthy for anyone," he said.

"It is also dangerous for there to be a long-term stand-off between Parliament and the judges, which is why we want to give better parliamentary guidance on what should be considered in these kind of cases in future."

He went on: "The rules will reflect how the conditions we set for entry and the right to remain are in our view proportionate and therefore consistent with Article 8 entitlements.

"This means the rules will mean what they say and we, applicants and the public will be clear about who is entitled to be here, on what conditions and why."

But the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) warned that the speech was "laying the ground work for a hammer blow to the human rights of cross-border partners and their families".

Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: "They've already been hit with an age minimum (although we defeated that), language requirements and ever-increasing visa fees.

"Now they face what is likely to be an unreasonably high income threshold. One might argue that this Government has it in for poor people who fall in love with anyone who's not resident in the UK.

"There is already in existence a rule that states an immigrant spouse will have no recourse to public funds in the UK, so any talk from Damian Green of immigrants being a drain on our resources is bluff and myth."

But Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migration Watch UK, said: "This speech shows the Government is determined to get the numbers down as they promised and they intend to do this by being much more selective.

"This has to be the right approach.

"We need to consider the common good, not just the demands of special interest groups who benefit financially from immigration."