New group to back migration

Cross-party effort to reclaim issue from race extremists

A cross-party group of politicians, trade unionists and business leaders is to launch a group campaigning for an "open and honest debate" about migration, amid concerns the issue has been hijacked by extremists.

The Migration Matters Trust, backed by the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, will be launched in January, to challenge the "new anti-immigration consensus" it claims has formed in politics as an influx of new arrivals has sparked complaints the rights of existing citizens are being overlooked.

Writing in The Independent on Sunday today, two of the politicians behind the group warn that mainstream politicians must confront extremists on the issue. But they also insist ethnic minorities must take part in the debate about how to handle the challenges posed by immigration.

The former Labour minister Barbara Roche and the Conservative MP Gavin Barwell say: "We need to have a full, frank and honest discussion about immigration. But we also need to ensure Britain's ethnic minority communities play a full part in that debate."

Details of the launch come after the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, admitted too little had been done to integrate people who have settled in British society – and that Labour had made mistakes in tackling the "realities of segregation" in struggling communities.

Figures from the 2011 census showed that 13 per cent of residents of England and Wales were born outside the UK.

Migration Matters claims it will confront "the challenges modern migration patterns pose to society", but highlight the positive impact of immigration. In particular, it will warn that new rules requiring a migrant to be earning at least £31,000 a year if they want to stay in the UK will disqualify many of the brightest talents from around the world from coming to this country.

Rajesh Agrawal, a British-Indian whose company Rational FX is one of the world's fastest-growing independent foreign exchange companies, said he would not have satisfied minimum-salary requirements when he arrived in the UK in 2001 with £200 in his pocket. He said: "I realise that you have to protect jobs. However, if the talent is not there then you have to get it from outside."