Theresa May’s speech at the conservative party conference on Monday was dominated by immigration. With an unsurprisingly negative stance, her speech focused on four particular issues within immigration: students, EU free movement, asylum seekers and refugees.
Theresa May made no attempt to hide her finger pointing at students for the huge increase in net migration during her term as Home Secretary. Her decisive comment, ‘If they have a graduate job that is fine. If not, they must return home. I don’t care what the university lobbyists say: the rules must be enforced’, seemingly ignored the number of benefits that students give to the UK economy that have been proven time and time again.
EU free movement was next in the firing line for May who cited the strong UK economy and our generous benefits system as pulls for those coming to the UK. An undeserved member of the firing line as not only do EU migrants make up less than half of net migration numbers but EU migrants also make up the large majority of working migrants contributing to our economy and plugging our skill shortages.
Free movement was further attacked from the point of view of family members with Theresa May stating that ‘anybody who has married a European can come here almost without a condition’; a statement in line with her consistent disregard for any Article 8 rights within the UK immigration system.
Thirdly came her attack on asylum seekers by laying out a ‘new plan’to deal with such claims. This new plan seemed to entail a ‘new annual asylum strategy’ which, whilst briefly mentioning the UK’s ‘moral duty to help people in need’ largely involves limiting the number of available places for refugees in the UK; effectively enforcing a quota. May failed to address the irreconcilability of the extent of ‘our moral duty to help people in need’ with enforcing a quota. The statistics for asylum seekers show that those claiming asylum in 2014 was down 59,000 in 2002 to only 25,000. We will have to wait until next year for the first version to be published.
Finally, and most shockingly, came May’s treatment of refugees. She began by stating her intentions to narrow the internationally accepted definition of refugee. A definition which was imposed in order to ensure the safe protection of individuals facing persecution, death and torture, and simultaneously a definition that Theresa May is attempting to untangle so as to ensure it reduces migration to benefit her political status regardless. May attempted to justify her reasoning by providing stark examples of ‘vulnerable people’ and ‘those abusing the visa system’ without making any address to the in-between and ignoring the gravity of the situation. With thousands of people pouring into Europe fleeing persecution and death, May chose to defer to the age-old politically popular visa system abuse.
These four areas of immigration law are addressed in different measures by May, with some having concrete proposals attached to address them whilst others are merely inflammatory. Her overall message however was accurately reflected when she delivered the following: ‘And my message to the immigration campaigners and human rights lawyers in this: you can play your part in making this happen- or you can try to frustrate it. But if you choose to frustrate it, you will have to live with the knowledge that you are depriving people in genuine need of the sanctuary our country can offer’. Unfortunately what she failed to mention that this alleged sanctuary is limited to the few and nowhere near a fraction of those in genuine need.