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UK must prepare for immigration surge after Brexit vote, Home Affairs Committee warns

Published 27/07/2016

Brexit: An increase in numbers is expected before any move to tighten immigration rules
Brexit: An increase in numbers is expected before any move to tighten immigration rules

The Government must urgently prepare for a possible surge in immigration ahead of Brexit while allaying fears over British and European citizens being used as “bargaining chips”, a Parliamentary report has warned.

The Home Affairs Committee predicted that expected attempts to limit migration after the UK leaves the European Union could drive a last-minute dash, as the highest ever number of asylum applications remain outstanding and a large quantity of visa cases wait to be processed.

Keith Vaz, who chairs the Committee, said migration was the biggest issue facing the country as uncertainty continues following last month’s EU referendum.

“There is a clear lack of certainty in the government’s approach to the position of EU migrants resident in the UK and British citizens living in the EU,” the Labour MP added.

“Neither should be used as pawns in a complicated chess game which has not even begun.

“We have offered three suggested cut off dates, and unless the government makes a decision, the prospect of a 'surge' in immigration will increase.

“Multiple voices and opinions from government ministers causes uncertainty and must stop.”

The report found that the UK’s immigration directorates must be given extra funding and  resources to cope with the increased workload.

It concluded that previous attempts to tighten immigration rules have led to a spike in immigration prior to the rules coming into force, adding that much will depend on the outcome of negotiations on free movement and residence rights.

The committee said the outcome of the referendum “has placed EU nationals living in the UK in a potentially very difficult and uncertain position”, adding: “EU citizens living and working in the UK must be told where they stand in relation to the UK leaving the EU and they should not be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations.”

The report suggested the days of the referendum, 23 June, when article 50 is triggered or when the UK formally leaves the EU as cut-off points when EU citizens settled in the country should be given the right to permanent residence as new immigration laws come into effect.

It called for a dedicated Home Office unit to deal with the issue, as well as a new system to establish where Europeans are currently living and working, possibly through registration or National Insurance numbers.

Other issues highlighted included a large number of outstanding visa applications, the “unacceptable” handling of some asylum cases seeing refugees returned to unsafe countries, the failure to deport foreign offenders , and to collect people smuggling fines from lorry drivers and companies.

Mr Vaz said £2.5 million in people smuggling penalties remains unpaid, adding that the “shameful” figure undermines the use of fines as a deterrent.

A spokesperson for the Government said: “We have been clear that we want to protect the status of EU nationals already living here, and the only circumstances in which that wouldn't be possible is if British citizens' rights in European member states were not protected in return.

"We are about to begin these negotiations and it would be wrong to set out further unilateral positions in advance.

"But there is clearly no mandate for accepting the free movement of people as it has existed up until now.”

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