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Comments on Home Office Green Paper "Paths to Citizenship" May 2008

Comments on Home Office Green Paper "Paths to Citizenship" May 2008

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Published by Oxfam
In summary, while welcoming the intention to simplify and clarify the immigration system, Oxfam is concerned that the proposals create a more complex, less transparent and less welcoming system for migrants. We would like to see greater recognition of the value of migration in the struggle to reduce poverty and inequality. We suggest the Government review the language and proposals of the Green Paper in the light of their potential to harden public attitudes towards migrants. The new proposals for probationary citizenship, and measures to ensure would-be citizens meet criteria for “active” citizenship, would make them more vulnerable to discrimination and potential exploitation. Oxfam is reassured by the re-stated commitment to those in need of protection, but would like to see forced migrants excluded from the proposal completely. Finally, Oxfam fears that an additionally punitive regime would lead to many migrants being afraid to ask for legitimate entitlements, and opposes any restriction in benefits which would result in people resident in the UK being denied basic rights to food, water, shelter, and protection, whatever their immigration status and nationality.
In summary, while welcoming the intention to simplify and clarify the immigration system, Oxfam is concerned that the proposals create a more complex, less transparent and less welcoming system for migrants. We would like to see greater recognition of the value of migration in the struggle to reduce poverty and inequality. We suggest the Government review the language and proposals of the Green Paper in the light of their potential to harden public attitudes towards migrants. The new proposals for probationary citizenship, and measures to ensure would-be citizens meet criteria for “active” citizenship, would make them more vulnerable to discrimination and potential exploitation. Oxfam is reassured by the re-stated commitment to those in need of protection, but would like to see forced migrants excluded from the proposal completely. Finally, Oxfam fears that an additionally punitive regime would lead to many migrants being afraid to ask for legitimate entitlements, and opposes any restriction in benefits which would result in people resident in the UK being denied basic rights to food, water, shelter, and protection, whatever their immigration status and nationality.

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Published by: Oxfam on Apr 12, 2011
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Comments on Home Office Green Paper “Paths to Citizenship” May 2008
About Oxfam 
Oxfam is a British international development agency working in nine regions around the world, andin the UK. Oxfam’s purpose is to overcome poverty and inequality all over the world including in theUK. We develop projects with people living in poverty that improve their lives and show others howthings can change. We raise public awareness of poverty to create pressure for change. And wework with policymakers to tackle the causes of poverty. Oxfam’s programme includes work withpartners on the ability of people experiencing poverty to have a decent standard of living and makea sustainable livelihood, to live a life free from discrimination and have their rights to gender andrace equality respected, and the right of refugees be free from destitution and live in dignity.Our programme includes support for the rights of migrant workers, media monitoring andencouragement of good practice in the reporting of refugee and asylum issues, a programme onattitudes and beliefs of the British public, and work with partners to tackle gender and racediscrimination both for resident black and minority ethnic communities and for new arrivals to theUK. For further details about Oxfam’s work in the UK, seewww.oxfam.org.uk/uk.Our response to the Green Paper is in two parts: a response to the consultation questionnaire(sent separately) and more detailed comments below on the Paper and its implications based onour work in England, Scotland and Wales.
In summary, while welcoming the intention to simplify and clarify the immigration system,Oxfam is concerned that the proposals create a more complex, less transparent and lesswelcoming system for migrants. We would like to see greater recognition of the value ofmigration in the struggle to reduce poverty and inequality. We suggest the Governmentreview the language and proposals of the Green Paper in the light of their potential toharden public attitudes towards migrants. The new proposals for probationary citizenship,and measures to ensure would-be citizens meet criteria for “active” citizenship, would makethem more vulnerable to discrimination and potential exploitation. Oxfam is reassured bythe re-stated commitment to those in need of protection, but would like to see forcedmigrants excluded from the proposal completely. Finally, Oxfam fears that an additionallypunitive regime would lead to many migrants being afraid to ask for legitimate entitlements,and opposes any restriction in benefits which would result in people resident in the UKbeing denied basic rights to food, water, shelter, and protection, whatever their immigrationstatus and nationality.
Key recommendations: Oxfam urges the Government to be more explicit about the value of migrants to the economy, and to reconsider its proposals, which make it more difficult and expensive for migrants to consider citizenship.We suggest the language of the Green Paper be reviewed, in the light of the risks of discrimination through its reinforcement of negative public attitudes and beliefs towards migrants.
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Oxfam urges the Government to abandon the concept and terminology of “probationary” citizenship, and instead use the concept of “transition”, putting in place active measures to support participation and integration rather than make them a condition of citizenship.Oxfam urges the Government to retain and not lengthen the existing time limits in which migrants are considered for residence.We recommend the Government consider making financial resources available for a strong and supportive programme for would-be migrants, in the interests of community cohesion.Oxfam urges the Government to reconsider both the concept of “active citizenship” as outlined, and the measures proposed, as discriminatory against migrants in poverty and with family responsibilities.Oxfam recommends the Government promote measures whereby British citizens and new migrants are supported to work together in the community – formally and informally.Oxfam recommends that the Government clarify what its commitment to refugees as prospective citizens will mean in practice. Ideally, Oxfam would like to see forced migrants excluded from these proposals completely.We urge the Government to abandon its proposals to charge migrants fees for their applications and find alternative ways to predict migration-driven demand on public services, through more forward planning.We urge the Government to review its proposals in the light of its human rights obligations,to ensure the safety and security of all those living in poverty, whether permanent citizens or not.Oxfam urges the Government to use the Green Paper consultation as an opportunity to work with organisations supporting migrants, and with migrant workers themselves, to ensure it lives up to the high standards of tolerance and fairness of Britain to which it refers.Introduction 
Migration represents an opportunity to reduce poverty and inequality, including gender and raceinequality, both for migrants and for Britain. Yet certain policies and practices relating to migrationand migrants can create or exacerbate poverty and inequality, or lessen the potential benefits ofmigration – for migrants and for the communities that send them or host them. For Oxfam, theeradication of poverty and inequality should be fundamental criteria for judging immigration policy.
 
As detailed in our comments below, we are concerned that proposals in the Green Paper‘Pathways to Citizenship’ would worsen the poverty and suffering of many current and futuremigrants, and could reduce the benefits of immigration to certain sectors and populations of theUK.We welcome the overall intention of creating a simpler and more transparent system for welcomingmigrants to the UK. We also welcome the recognition that the current system has faults and thegenuine desire to improve it. However, we fear that in practice the Green Paper creates a morecomplex, less transparent, and less welcoming system for migrants. We also have concerns aboutthe implications of the proposals, which we fear would worsen the vulnerability to poverty andsuffering of many current and future migrants.
Social and economic benefits of migration – to the UK and to countries of origin 
We welcome the Green Paper’s account of the benefits of migration (paragraphs 25 - 30). Theseare both economic and social, filling skills shortages and meeting labour market demands, making
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Britain more prosperous and productive by bringing skills and experience complementary to thenative population, and socially, enriching the diverse cultures of communities. The Paper drawsattention to the fact that the average migrant pays 10 per cent more in tax than they receive inservices, and collectively migrants add £6bn to the economy and provide labour market flexibility.Oxfam works in countries which both send and receive migrants and so has a unique standpointfrom which to comment on both the benefits and the problems created by migration. On the onehand, many of the developing countries where Oxfam works experience a “brain drain” of skilledworkers to richer countries, which benefits the UK but creates issues for countries of origin. Thisgroup is particularly those targeted by the new points-based system. In addition to bringingsignificant benefits to the UK especially in key sectors such as health and construction, migrantsalso remit large sums back to support and enrich their home countries. It is now well known thatremittances make a bigger contribution to the GDP of countries of origin, than official aid disbursedby governments.
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Therefore Britain benefits from migration even more than the Green Paperacknowledges.In addition, certain sectors and populations in the UK receive considerable benefits from migration.Recent reports have documented the dependence of tourism and agriculture on migrant labour.Moreover, people dependent on carers
 
receive significant benefits from ‘unskilled’ as well as‘skilled’ migrant workers. Migrants fill many jobs caring for the elderly, infirm and the very young – arguably, migrants are reducing the poverty and suffering of dependent populations in the UK,since without migrant labour the level of services would be lower. Furthermore, migrants filling thegap in the labour force for caring services - both in private homes and public institutions – allowsother (British) adults to spend more time in paid work. As the public provision of a high level ofhealth, education and caring services is a significant factor in reducing gender inequality in societyand the economy, the migrant labour force is critical to gender equality strategies. It is ironic,therefore, that the Government’s proposals on immigration policy run the risk of making thesesame migrant workers – often women – from black and minority ethnic groups, more vulnerable,poor and without access to public services.
We would like to see greater recognition, without caveats, of the contribution of migrants to Britain.
 
Views of the public: negative attitudes and beliefs about migrants 
We are seriously concerned that the tone of the Green Paper is not likely to contribute to a fullappreciation of the migrant contribution to the economy and the life of the nation. TheGovernment’s immigration policy is not wholly responsible for determining the potential benefits orthe problems associated with migration. Clearly, many factors influence whether migration worksto reduce poverty or is fraught with conflict, violence, discrimination and exploitation. Migrantsexperience is shaped by the policies of countries of origin and international economicdevelopment, by private sector companies’ policies and practices, by initiatives of migrantorganisations as well as public attitudes and beliefs.
Yet we believe that the UK government’s positions , language and policy on immigration play a critical role in framing the debate.
We wouldlike to see the Government making proposals that unequivocally value the contribution of migrantsto the UK economy and society, and highlight the opportunity of migration in the struggle to reducepoverty and inequality. Alternatively, official policy runs the risk of reinforcing historical notionsabout migrants and unintentionally legitimising exploitative practices of employers and negative orracist public beliefs.Many of the recommendations appear to be based on the results of a public consultation whichconcluded that migrants should “speak the common language, make an economic contribution,and obey the law”. Yet there is no recognition in the Green Paper that these are precisely theintentions of the majority of migrants to the UK. Whilst we welcome the wide-ranging consultationto find out what the public thinks about reform of the immigration system, we are concerned thatneither the views of migrants themselves or of migrants’ organisations appear to have been
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World Bank website:http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:20648762~menuPK:34480~pagePK:64257043~piPK:437376~theSitePK:4607,00.html3

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