Labour vows to scrap net migration target
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, says target has completely distorted governments policy on immigration.
Labour will scrap the Conservatives target to reduce net migration to below 100,000 if they are elected next year, the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has spelled out for the first time.
She told a Labour fringe meeting on immigration that despite the pledge to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands” by the next election it stood at the same level (243,000) as when David Cameron and Theresa May announced the target in 2010. The Conservatives have admitted that the target, which the Liberal Democrats refused to support, will be “difficult to meet” by next May’s election.
Cooper said the adoption of the target had completely distorted the government’s policy on immigration. It has led to a squeeze particularly on overseas student numbers and on family migration in an attempt to reduce the numbers.
She said that one of the major problems with the target was that it did not distinguish between different kinds of migrants and counted overseas students, low-skilled migrants and people seeking asylum as if they were all the same.
The shadow home secretary said Labour would replace the government’s net migration target with a much more strictly defined series of targets and controls which would not include overseas students. Cooper also said it was important that people seeking asylum were treated completely separately from migrants as they were seeking protection.
She said: “We would not have a net migration target because choosing net migration to focus on is the wrong thing. We think immediately what should happen is that students, international university students, should be taken out of the net migration target straight away.
“What you should instead have is a series of different controls and targets for different kinds of immigration.”
Cooper told a fringe meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on migration: “So rather than thinking there is one single net migration target, which has issues around emigration, has issues around all sorts of things, but also treats all kinds of immigration as the same … we should recognise that complexity and make sure you have a system which is far more sensible about the different kinds of immigration that we face and how it will work internationally, how it can be controlled and managed.”
The commitment means that Labour will heed the strong protests from the higher education sector in Britain that the pressure to cut overseas student numbers to meet the net migration target is damaging an important export industry that is worth £12bn a year in overseas earnings.
Cooper also said she wanted a European-wide migration impact fund that would provide support and services to those parts of the EU that were experiencing high levels of immigration.
- The Guardian,