Points system aims to cut economic migrants

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Tough plans to cut numbers of economic migrants and return failed asylum-seekers will be set out by the Government on Monday amid alarm among ministers that the Tories have taken the initiative on the issue.

Tough plans to cut numbers of economic migrants and return failed asylum-seekers will be set out by the Government on Monday amid alarm among ministers that the Tories have taken the initiative on the issue.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, will announce a "points system" to assess potential migrants for language skills, educational qualifications and job skills.

He will rule out setting an annual quota, as the Conservatives proposed, but the effect of the Labour proposals is bound to be a reduction in the number of arrivals.

This is part of the Home Office's long-awaited five-year plan for immigration and asylum, agreed by the Cabinet on Thursday. Ministers were warned that focus-group studies had concluded it was the one policy area in which Labour lagged the Conservatives in the eyes of the electorate.

Mr Clarke will tell MPs that the government plans to charge migrants who appeal against a decision to refuse entry to their relative. Ministers believe a charge of, say, £200, will be a disincentive to potential migrants considering stringing out the system for years by successive appeals.

The Home Secretary will promise a fresh attempt to accelerate the removal of rejected asylum-seekers. Although the number has increased, ministers realise they are vulnerable to the charge that many go missing after being rejected.

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