Author- BIWA KWAN
Britain’s Home Secretary says the country will adopt Australia’s skilled migration model and “end the free movement of people once and for all”.
Britain’s government says it is moving ahead with plans to adopt an Australian-style points-based immigration system.
Addressing supporters at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, British Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government is working hard to make it happen.
“I have a particular responsibility when it comes to taking back control: It is to end the free movement of people once and for all,” she said to rounds of applause.
“Instead we will introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system.”
Immigration officials in Australia assess skilled worker visa applications awarding points for proficiency in English, work experience and age. The screening system was first rolled out in 1979 and has in the years since been adjusted to better consider the preferences of employers.
Last month, Ms Patel wrote to the Migration Advisory Committee asking it to review if Australia’s points-based migration system could work in Britain.
The committee has been asked to report back by Janu
‘Daughter of immigrants needs no lectures’
Ms Patel said she believes leaving the EU will provide Britain with a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to change the country’s immigration system for the better.
“One that works in the best interest of Britain. One that attracts and welcomes the brightest and the best. One that supports the brilliant scientists, the finest academics and the leading people in their fields. And one that is under the control of the British government.”
Trumpeting her own credentials, the Home Secretary provoked a strong reaction on Twitter with critics condemning the reference to London’s Jewish population.
“Let me tell you something, this is daughter of immigrants needs no lectures from the North London metropolitan Liberal elite.”
This is an antisemitic dog whistle. Either @patel4witham intended it or was reckless in using it. Either way
‘Difficult policy question’
An academic on Australia’s immigration policy, Professor Alex Reilly at the University of Adelaide, said there is no guarantee that the success of Australia’s points system will be replicated in Britain.
“You have got to look at Australia’s particularly unique circumstances because a points system can be used as a way to still have a high level of migration. You can just lower the points and allow people in. Or you can put the points up really high and make it very restrictive.
“So once it has lost free movement to Europe, it then has the opportunity: ‘right we can decide down to the last number, how many economic migrants we bring into the country?’ That is a difficult policy question that they have to determine.
He rejected the argument that the emphasis on English-language skill proficiency is being used as a way of preferencing English-speaking ethnicities.
“There are criticisms of the points system. In terms of having an English language requirement, I think there is good reason for that. We don’t look at people on the basis of race. We do look at them on the basis of their capacity, and English language is a capacity in that sense.”
Issues of racism
But Mr Reilly said there are issues around settlement and social cohesion that can arise due to backlogs in the system, and underemployment or unemployment of migrants.
“One of the problems with the skilled migration system based on points is that someone might come to Australia but might not get a job in their skillset. Because if you’re coming out as an independent skilled migrant, you are not guaranteed a job. In fact, you have to enter the job market like anybody else. And that is where issues of racism, or suspicion of someone from the outside might come in, and make it harder for someone to get a job.
“There are also issues of skills recognition that just because you have a visa coming in as an engineer, which is a skill which we [Australia] value, there is then a process by which you then have to get your skills recognised.”
Canada and New Zealand have also adopted a points-style system for skilled migration.
‘Playing with peoples’ minds’
University of Sydney professor Mary Crock said around 50 countries have some form of points system.
She said while Australia has a tightly regulated skilled immigration process, replicating the success with the points system in Britain would be very difficult.
“Basically if the UK wanted to adopt the Australian model, you would need to do it from the ground up. And you would need to jump to the point where British people accept the idea that the government can tell you how many plumbers you need. And you have to have a system to work out whether a person has got the qualifications.
“it took many years of development in structural reforms and institutions to create Australia’s systems. So you can’t turn on a sixpence and recreate it tomorrow.
Professor Crock said immigration in Britain is being used for political purposes, adding that she saw very little chance for Britain to truly adopt Australia’s points system.
“The points test in Australia only operates for permanent migration. And the move in this country [Australia] as with other countries is towards temporary migration rather than permanent migration.
“So when they are talking about the points test, what they are often doing is playing with peoples’ minds.
“Actual immigration control is very complex and involves lots of issues — not just points. Who allocates the points? Against what criteria? Are they going to adopt what is the core to Australia’s system, which is standard classification of all occupations across the board; and then the adoption of a standard criteria of being admitted to work in those occupations?”