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Fairness, respect and community should be the driving forces behind immigration policy

Leading immigration campaigners call on UK government to take values-based approach to immigration post-Brexit

Workers on a production line. Photo credit: Dan Law/Press Association. All rights reserved.

The full text and list of signatories to an opinion piece from leading campaign groups:

The publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) final report, establishing the UK’s immigration labour needs after Brexit, is welcome. For Britain to have a successful immigration and asylum system, we need a clearly defined objective.

However, economic labour needs are only half the picture. If we are to take the opportunity to create a new immigration system which works for everyone we must base our approach on values which reflect who we are as a country and why we run things as we do. Values like fairness, respect and community.

There is a consensus that immigration policy needs to be reformed. Our current system results in people who've come to live here from abroad facing confusion and hardship, and the public losing faith. This is no way for Britain to run an immigration system. It is lacking in strategy, but it is also out of kilter with the values which Britain usually prides itself in embodying.

That is why, as leading organisations pushing for immigration reform in the UK, we are today calling for the government to take a new, values-based approach to immigration after Brexit. We believe that, by taking these values as a starting point, we can build an immigration system which enables people who come to Britain from abroad and those born here to live well together as a strong and thriving country.

We therefore call for an immigration system which is:

Optimistic: We believe immigration, properly managed, can make Britain a better place for people to live. It supports a stronger economy, vibrant communities and a rich culture. We want an immigration system which works towards this end – not one which views managing immigration as an exercise in damage limitation.

Humane: Britain is a compassionate country. We should treat everyone who comes here, whether looking for work or safety, with humanity – whether their application to come into the UK is successful or not. Needless cruelty serves no-one and degrades Britain in the eyes of the world.

Evidence-led: Immigration policy should be based on the best available evidence of what works, what Britain needs, and what impact immigration policies have on people and communities. Relying on undeliverable goals only damages public trust and encourages policies which harm people.

Based on the rule of law: the idea that everyone is subject to the law and that the law should be fairly applied is a defining characteristic of Britain’s unwritten constitution. We believe immigration should be no exception. Immigration law should be accessible and easy to navigate. Immigration decisions should be made according to legal judgement – not in the pursuit of politically-driven refusal targets.

Supportive of strong communities: people who come to Britain should be given the tools and support they need to start contributing and participating in their new communities. They should be supported to learn English and find employment, making their community stronger – and communities themselves should be supported with the infrastructure they need.

Our proposal is not radical. It is common sense and based on principles which people widely believe in. It is a different approach. But with some political leadership, we believe a better Britain, with a better immigration system, is possible.

Full list of signatories:

Harriet Ballance                                 Acting Director                  Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID)

Sunder Katwala                                 Director                             British Future

Toni Soni                                            Centre Director                 Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre

Eiri Ohtani                                          Project Director                 Detention Forum

Emma Harrison                                  Director                             IMiX

Satbir Singh                                       Chief Executive                 Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)

Rosario Guimba-Stewart                   Chief Executive                 Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network

Aderonke Apata                                 Director                             Manchester Migrant Solidarity

Wayne Myslik                                     Chief Executive                Migrants Resource Centre

Rita Chadha                                       Interim Director                Migrants' Rights Network

Hazel Williams                                   National Director              NACCOM (No Accommodation Network)

Sally Daghlian                                    Chief Executive                Praxis Community Projects

Stephen Hale                                     Chief Executive                Refugee Action

Charlie Fraser                                    Director                            TERN (The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network)

Nicolas Hatton                                   Founding Co-chair            the3million

Leila Zadeh                                        Executive Director           UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group

Maurice Wren                                    Chief Executive                Refugee Council

About the author

Charlotte is a lawyer, researcher and campaigner and Editor of openJustice. From working on death penalty cases in Louisiana to unveiling the housing conditions of vulnerable migrant children living in London, Charlotte's work focuses on using the law, investigation and advocacy to help marginalised individuals hold larger powers to account.

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