News / Europe

    Britain to Cap Non-EU Immigrants

    Would be Illegal immigrants to Britain stand in line waiting for a meal supplied by a humanitarian association  in Calais, France. (file photo)
    Would be Illegal immigrants to Britain stand in line waiting for a meal supplied by a humanitarian association in Calais, France. (file photo)

    Britain attracts students and workers from all over the world. In fact,  immigration is the fastest contributor to Britain's population growth. Many say the influx is straining the country's social welfare system.  The new coalition government plans to introduce a cap on the number of immigrants from outside the EU. Critics of the proposal say the proposal will not do much to curb the growing numbers as more than 85 percent of immigrants are from EU nations. Some immigrants will go to extreme lengths in order to remain in the country and explore possible effects of the government's proposed immigration cap.

    Bogus marriages

    British authorities are cracking down on sham marriages, where a European Union national marries someone from outside the EU so that person can remain in Britain.

    A vicar in southern England was recently convicted of carrying out more than 360 fake marriages.

    "We're seeing cases where typically perhaps a West African national, who's not in the EU, marries an EU national, whether they be Dutch, French, Portuguese, Spanish and they then get all the rights, so they have a vested interest in marrying an EU national," explained Sam Bullimore, with the UK Border Agency.

    Bullimore says it has become an industry, where a "facilitator" can earn more than $10,000 for each bogus marriage. Clergyman Tim Codling started working with the police after he was inundated with marriage requests he thought were dubious. During one ceremony he started reciting the names of train stations instead of vows, and the bride, who clearly did not understand English repeated after him.  Codling says a parallel law system makes churches an easy target.

    "The Church of England is more attractive because you don't have to go through the same sort of checks as you would have to go through if you made an application in the secular system,"
    Codling noted.

    Fake colleges

    Bullimore says another scam that immigrants are using are fake colleges, which sponsor student visas.

    "We're seeing plenty of instances where colleges are opening, they have capacity ostensibly for 5,000 students or there'll be 5,000 students applying for places in that college and the college itself may, upon being visited, only have room for 200," Bullimore said.

    Prime Minister David Cameron's government is trying to cut down on immigration from outside the European Union. It has put a cap on the number of immigrants who can enter the country, a little more than 24,000 per year. The rule is an interim one, but expected to become permanent next April.

    Criticism, praise

    The policy has been criticized by a group of Nobel Laureates who say it will discourage promising students and scientists from coming to Britain and threatens Britain's reputation as a leader in research.  Business leaders say it will prevent businesses from recruiting the best international talent. Car manufacturers here have warned the same thing.

    Alp Mehmet, with the research group Migration Watch, approves of the government's cap. He believes immigration numbers are getting out of control.

    "It's not immigrants, what we want is a sustainable number, a number, the numbers coming in here at a rate that they can integrate, they can become a part of this society rather than groups within society," Mehmet said.

    Britain has a long history of taking in immigrants, and the capital is full of diverse ethnic neighborhoods like Brixton, in South London, home to many of Caribbean descent who came here in the 1940s.  About 176,000 immigrants a year come to Britain, the new prime minister wants to reduce that number to the tens of thousands, but has hinted to businesses here, he might relax the cap on skilled workers to keep Britain open for business.

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