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A new Parliamentary report has warned that the UK Government must draw up plans to combat a surge in immigration before Brexit and calm panic over British and EU citizens being used as ‘bargaining chips’.
The Home Affairs Committee (HAC) estimated that expected attempts to restrict migration, following Britain’s departure from the EU, will most likely cause a huge last minute surge as the largest ever number of asylum applications remain outstanding as well as the visa cases that will have yet to have been processed.
The chairman of the committee, Keith Vaz, described this migration issue as the biggest concern that the UK is facing due to the continued uncertainty and lack of knowledge being given since the EU referendum result.
Mr. Vaz said, ‘There is a clear lack of certainty in the government’s approach to the position of EU migrants’ resident in the UK and British citizens living in the EU… Neither should be used as pawns in a complicated chess game which has not even begun… We have offered three suggested cut-off dates, and unless the government makes a decision, the prospect of a ‘surge’ in immigration will increase… Multiple voices and opinions from government ministers causes uncertainty and must stop.’
The investigation discovered that the UK’s immigration directorates must be provided with additional funds and resources in order to cope with the heightened workload that will occur. The report summarizes that past attempts to restrict immigration rules have had a reverse effect on immigration numbers prior to the rules coming into force. The conclusion went on to say that a lot of it will depend on the result of negotiations on free movement and residence rights.
The HAC in light of the EU referendum result that it ‘has placed EU nationals living in the UK in a potentially very difficult and uncertain position… EU citizens living and working in the UK must be told where they stand in relation to the UK leaving the EU and they should not be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations.’
The Parliamentary report encouraged that the days of the referendum (June 23rd), when the article 50 ruling is triggered or when the UK formally leaves the EU, should be the cut-off points for when EU citizens settle in the country should be given the right to permanent residence as new immigration laws come into effect. It also suggested that the Home Office create a specialist unit to deal with the influx, as well as developing a new system to establish where Europeans are currently living and working, possibly through registration or National Insurance numbers.
The other clear problem that was brought to attention was the large amount of outstanding visa applications. The ‘unacceptable’ handling of some asylum cases seeing refugees returned to unsafe countries, the failure to deport foreign offenders, and to collect people smuggling fines from lorry drivers and companies.
A Government spokesperson, ‘We have been clear that we want to protect the status of EU nationals already living here, and the only circumstances in which that wouldn’t be possible is if British citizens’ rights in European member states were not protected in return… We are about to begin these negotiations and it would be wrong to set out further unilateral positions in advance… But there is clearly no mandate for accepting the free movement of people as it has existed up until now.’