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Britain's Immigration Cap Could Affect Poor Countries


Britain's new coalition government is pledging to put a cap on the number of non-EU immigrants allowed into Britain. Some people believe it's what the country needs to curb over-population. But, others say it could hurt British business as well as the economy of some of the world's poorest countries.

The Queen of England announced the new immigration policy when she opened parliament.

"My government will limit the number of non-European Union economic migrants entering the United Kingdom," said Queen Elizabeth II.

The new government has not yet said what that cap will be.

But with around seven million people living in Britain who were not born here, it says immigration is too high and must be curbed.

Priti Patel, a Conservative Member of Parliament, says Britain's last government did not do enough to limit the number of immigrants. Now, she says, a cap is what's needed.

"I think it's long overdue to be honest," said Priti Patel. "Immigration has been out of control over the past 13 years. We've had historic records of immigration. We've had ridiculous scenarios where we actually didn't know who was coming into the country numbers wise and who was leaving. I think it's about time we had a sensible and pragmatic policy on immigration."

But Laura Chappell from the Institute for Public Policy Research says a cap is not realistic. She says a limit on the number of immigrants coming into Britain could hurt British business.

"If it's say 90,000 people and by September that cap is filled, are the government really going to turn to the football clubs that want to sign the next Didier Drogba and say no, we've got our 90,000 immigrants? " asked Laura Chappell.

And immigrants are good for Britain. Chappell says they pay more taxes and take less benefits than the average British citizen.

Perhaps more importantly, she says, migrants help their home countries. They bring new skills and resources with them when they return home and while abroad send money back that develops local economies.

"If you're a family and someone from your family has migrated, you'll be wealthier, but you're also, for example, more likely to start a business, so employ other people in the local area and so the benefits spill over and benefit whole communities and societies," she said.

Her organization, the Institute for Public Policy Research, has carried out research over the past four years, surveying 10,000 households in seven countries to see how they spend their money. What they found is that on the whole in households where someone has immigrated there is a better standard of living.

In Jamaica, each returned migrant in a household increases spending on healthcare by more than 50 percent. And in Ghana, households with an absent migrant spend over $100 more on education each year than those without.

Joyce Newton moved from Ghana to London over eight years ago. She says the money she can earn in a few hours in Britain can go a long way towards helping her family back home.

"Even as little as 20 pounds [$30] is almost 500,000 cedi in Ghana, which is a lot of money to help to do something good," said Joyce Newton.

She says the money she sends home helps pay to educate her siblings.

"You save a little, send a little to the home, so that they can help out with the other kids who are also coming up to get to a better standard because now at least schooling and stuff like that, it's not free as you get here, everything has to be paid for," she said.

The new coalition government says it will honor Britain's aid commitments to the poorest countries in the world.

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