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‘Britain could benefit from Commonwealth immigration’

CLOSED BORDERS: Migration from the Commonwealth is now at the lowest level since 1998

A CONTROVERSIAL report calling for an open door immigration rule for parts of the Commonwealth has sparked debate about the effectiveness of current policies.

The report by Commonwealth Exchange, a policy foundation that promotes trade, suggests that talented people from the Commonwealth are being discriminated against, as figures show the lowest levels of net migration outside the EU since 1998.

It argues that the UK is missing out on great economic benefits because its “outdated immigration policy” is preventing skilled Commonwealth citizens from coming to the country.

The report calls for a ‘Commonwealth Concession’ to the tourist and business-tourist visas and a reinstatement of youth mobility visas.

It also backs Boris Johnson’s recommendation to have a bilateral mobility zone between the UK, Australia, and New Zealand and possibly Canada.

Johnson said: “We should welcome the brightest and the best from a wider range of countries. As we re-examine our relationship with the European Union, we have a vital opportunity to recast our immigration system in just this way. And the first place to start is with the Commonwealth.”

Tim Hewish, executive director of Commonwealth Exchange, added: “The UK’s visa system is broken and needs urgent reform. On the one hand we have free movement of people from the EU, on the other we impose heavy restrictions on the Commonwealth.


“That means the UK is effectively cutting itself off from a market and the talents of 2.3 billion people, many of whom share our language and values.” 

PROPOSAL: Boris Johnson

Don Flynn, director of Migrants Rights Network, said while he welcomes the move towards more effective immigration policies, he is concerned that some of the proposals are “chronically limited”.

He criticised the presumption that the UK can only benefit from migration that comes from countries that “have more or less equal levels of GDP as our own and also happen to be largely white countries as well.”

Flynn said: “If you look at the Commonwealth the real potentially interesting developments actually come from the possibility of being able to engage with the Caribbean, African or Asian Commonwealth countries, where the access to the UK labour markets might be a sphere to economic development back in their home countries.

“That would be a far greater benefit than the marginal benefits that would come from having free movement between Canada and the UK or Australia and the UK.”

Ralph Buckle, director of the Commonwealth Exchange, insisted there are many proposals which are Commonwealth-wide, such as the youth, business and tourist concessions. He explained that while some of them will be done in stages, they will eventually filter down to the Americas, Asia, Africa and “potentially some of the Caribbean nations as well.”

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