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Which industries can bring in migrant workers – and which cannot – will be one of the defining questions in migration policy if the UK Government ends free movement after Brexit, according to a new report from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.  The new report, Labour Immigration After Brexit: Trade-offs and Questions about Policy Design, considers the options for post-Brexit labour immigration policy and their potential ramifications.

The report notes that reducing EU migration after Brexit is a key government objective. However, deciding how and where to achieve such reductions is not a simple statistical exercise but involves a series of subjective, political decisions. Some industries and businesses will see bigger impacts than others, and deciding which ones should be allowed to bring in migrant workers could be a contentious process.

Perhaps the single biggest question about migration policy after Brexit is how much—if any—of the demand for low- and middle-skilled workers the Government will satisfy, the report argues. The Government has indicated that high-skilled EU workers are not likely to be the main target of measures to reduce migration after Brexit.

The report notes that the Government faces a choice between implementing a tailored migration system which is responsive to differing policy goals (such as supporting specific industries like agriculture or reducing the cost of social care) and a simpler set of rules that can be applied more uniformly across all industries. There are pros and cons to each approach: a tailored system enables the government to put immigration policy at the service of other government objectives like industrial strategy or supporting public services, but is also more complex and harder to implement.

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory and author of the report, said: “There’s no single, objective metric to decide which industries should continue to receive new migrant workers after Brexit. The Government will need to juggle several different objectives, like the desire to reduce migration, support particular sectors, or to negotiate a new relationship with the European Union. Some of these objectives will inevitably conflict, so the challenge will be deciding how to prioritise them. Ultimately, a fair amount of political judgment will be needed.”


The following article is one of several pieces which are part of Policy Network’s ongoing project on immigration and integration supported by the Barrow Cadbury Fund.

In four weeks’ time, amid the pageantry of ceremonial Washington, the 45th president of the United States will be sworn into office. A man who won that office on, among many other horrors, a promise to ‘ban’ (albeit temporarily) Muslims from entering the US.

He may be rolling back on that offensive policy now the Oval Office looms in vision, but the point is telling. Fear of Islam remains real and potent across the west, even a decade and a half on from 9/11.

In Europe the ‘refugee crisis’ and a series of terror attacks over the past two years have flared tensions. Last night’s appalling incident in Berlin has already sparked a torrent of racist remarks on social media, following early reports that the driver may have been from Pakistan. It seems almost inevitable that public discourse will soon return to the sensitive topic of whether Islam is compatible with ‘western’ values.

In recent weeks Chancellor Merkel has joined the chorus of politicians floating support for a burqa ban, showing it is not just ‘populists’ focusing on the issue.

This week Policy Network’s contributors seek to go beyond simplistic rhetoric and policies, concluding it’s time to rethink the way we use terms such as ethnicity, identity, culture and race. Our contributors probe the integration debate – focusing on cases in Britain, France and Germany  – to consider the effectiveness of different responses to public concern. These range from policymaking to acts of symbolism and how politicians choose to react to fear.

These pieces are part of our ongoing project on immigration and integration supported by the Barrow Cadbury Fund and follow a successful recent seminar in London: ‘Inclusive integration: how can progressives promote social cohesion in divisive times?’, the audio of which is now available.

In a new report released today, Britain’s immigration offer to EuropeBritish Future sets out a proposal for a new, preferential system for EU immigration to the UK. Such a system, it argues, could secure UK public support for immigration in a managed system which is fair to migrants and host communities; yet remains politically deliverable in Westminster and for the EU and its member states too.  According to the report many think immigration presents an impossible conundrum for the Brexit negotiations.  But could we find a system that helps rebuild trust while continuing to welcome European migration to Britain and, crucially, gives UK negotiators a positive offer to make to the EU as it seeks the best possible trade deal?

The British Future proposal offers preferential European access to the UK labour market as part of a UK deal on trade with the EU. It retains freedom of movement for EU workers above a set skills or salary level: UK attitudes research shows that 88% of the public does not want to reduce the migration of skilled workers that our economy needs.  They would, however, like greater control of low- and semi-skilled immigration, which would be subject to quotas, set annually by Parliament, after consultation with employers and local communities. Importantly, the first opportunity to fill those low-skilled migrant quotas would go to Britain’s preferential trade partners – and the first offer of such a preferential trade and migration deal should be made to the EU.

It is essential that migrant workers are treated fairly and offered routes to settlement and citizenship and we make clear that this is not a guest worker system. We believe this is a constructive offer that is capable of securing support from within the European Union. What’s more, it could help to rebuild public trust in our immigration system here in the UK.  A preferential system would bring unskilled migration under UK control, while still ensuring that employers can recruit the staff they need to keep our economy growing, and our country remains open to the immigration that we want and need.



Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) will be co-sponsoring a briefing session in the House of Lords this Wednesday, 16 July, from 5-7 pm.  The session is being chaired by Baroness Young of Hornsey, with speakers including Diana Johnson MP, Kathryn Cronin (Garden Court Chambers), Klara Skrivankova (Anti-Slavery International) and Caroline Robinson (FLEX). 


In this blog Caroline Robinson, co-director and founder of Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) makes the case for a more effective response to human trafficking for labour exploitation.


As the public’s response to recent strike action on the part of public sector workers shows, it is not always easy to convince people of the need to protect the rights of all workers, British or migrant.  It is particularly hard in the face of high unemployment and a struggling economy, when the argument is put that migrant workers are filling roles British workers could take.


Yet, when it comes to debates about modern slavery, there is widespread sympathy and support for the victims, the majority of whom are migrant workers exploited for their labour. This paradox arises, simply put, because victims are viewed as deserving protections whereas potential victims are not. Our job is to make the argument that protections are most useful before someone becomes a victim and therefore should be applied to all workers regardless of migrant status.


In debate on this question, people often suggest that greater labour protections would act as a pull factor towards the UK. Yet, the recent Migration Advisory Committee report on low skilled migration suggests that in fact the opposite is true – that the absence of labour protections creates the demand for migrant workers, ergo labour protections reduce that demand.


But it is not just public opinion that is contradictory: migrant workers also face a confusing policy landscape. On the one hand there are increasing checks on immigration status at work and home provided for in the new Immigration Act and reduced labour protections as a result of the Government’s ‘red tape challenge’; then on the other hand there is Theresa May’s high-profile campaign against  ‘modern day slavery’.


Only last month the UK government, in adopting a new Protocol to the international Forced Labour Convention, recognised that greater labour protections serve to prevent acts of modern slavery from taking place. This supports the case made by Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) in our working paper on Preventing Trafficking for Labour Exploitation, that the UK needs a much stronger labour inspection system to prevent people from being exploited for their labour. We know that where gaps in the enforcement of labour protections exist, unscrupulous employers will take advantage of such gaps and exploitation will snowball from minor infringements of employment law to severe exploitation that constitutes modern slavery.


The Modern Slavery Bill offers an opportunity to improve labour protections for vulnerable workers as a means of preventing acts of severe exploitation. The debate around the Bill should focus on why, in modern Britain, workers are still being exploited for their labour in the restaurants we visit, hotels we stay in and on the construction sites all around us.


Yet, so far the Home Secretary has resisted calls for an expanded Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) in this Bill that could serve as an effective labour inspectorate, particularly in high-risk sectors where exploitation is rife. Instead the GLA has been moved into the Home Office, placing in great jeopardy its role to protect all workers regardless of status.


As politicians of all parties declare their support for ending slavery in the UK, there is a unique opportunity to put in place measures that would ensure no worker ends up in exploitation. But this opportunity will be missed if our leaders continue to talk tough on modern slavery without recognising that labour protections for all workers is the first line of defence in this fight.


Caroline Robinson is co-Director and founder of Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX). FLEX promotes effective responses to human trafficking for labour exploitation that prioritise the needs and voice of the victims and their human rights. Caroline is also a founder and Editorial Board Member of the Anti-Trafficking Review, an international open access journal that offers an outlet for dialogue between academics, practitioners, trafficked persons and advocates on anti-trafficking issues.


Jessica Kennedy of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum celebrates  the legacy of the Women on the Move Awards


On Thursday 6th March, 260 people gathered at the Southbank Centre to celebrate the achievements of inspirational women from refugee and migrant communities. The Women on the Move Awards, part of the WOW Festival and supported by Barrow Cadbury Trust are held to recognise the outstanding contributions that refugee women make to empowering and integrating their communities.  My organisation – The Forum – co-hosts the Awards alongside Migrants Rights Network and UNHCR.


The Awards are more than just a one night event, and aim to make an ongoing and lasting difference to the winners and their communities. The women gain recognition for, and raise the profile of, their work.  In addition, a fellowship provides access to high quality leadership development and help to build a network of exceptional women and the organisations they work with.


A month after the awards, as the dust has settled and the plaudits die down, what has changed?




Lilian Seenoi, who founded the only migrant forum in Derry-Londonderry from her kitchen table, won the Women of the Year Award for her work to ensure migrants and refugees can access support. The North-West Migrants Forum brings together diverse migrant groups and local communities which have suffered years of tension. The Awards have catapulted Lilian onto an international stage – she has just come back from Brussels, where she contributed to a public debate at the European Union on practical steps to challenge the poor treatment of migrants in Greece. She is shortly to fly to Turin, Italy, to take part in a European-wide project to tackle hate speech, before another visit to Brussels. All that before running a festival in June to bring together communities building on Derry-Londonderry’s place as UK City of Culture in 2013.


International attention also followed Tatiana Garavito, winner of the Young Woman of the Year Award for her tireless and determined work with the Latin American community in London. El Espectador, a mainstream newspaper in Colombia, published an article about Tatiana.  A short film commissioned by the Women on the Move Awards about Tatiana’s work will be shown at a documentary film festival in Colombia.  After the Awards Tatiana said they were “an amazing opportunity for us migrant women to show the world what we can achieve given a fair chance”.


Those who attended the Awards also found powerful connections. My personal highlight of the night was seeing, in the crush of the after-party, members of a collective of domestic workers connecting with a woman who works with Lilian and the North-West Migrants Forum and is trying to tackle exploitative labour practices in Northern Ireland. This fledgling relationship is continuing and already leading to mutual support, learning and, ultimately, stronger and more effective organisations.




Although the Awards receive little coverage from major news organisations, the winners and their organisations gain interest from a variety of other sources. Diana Nammi, who founded the Iranian-Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) as a reaction to ‘honour’ killing and violence, was given special recognition for her tireless work. On the night, IKWRO’s twitter followers notably increased.  All our winners have been inundated with requests for interviews and articles.


Films that Women on the Move made about the Award winners have reached 5,561 viewers – spreading these courageous stories even further. As organisers, we are so glad to see how the Awards create a platform for extraordinary women to shout about their own and their organisations’ great work.  Tatiana was able to highlight the invisibility of the Latin American community in London: “with this [attention], the whole community get the recognition that we are campaigning for”.




Perhaps most important, the women tell me, is an improvement in their confidence. Standing on stage as an Award winner, being celebrated for your work and able to share your story from a place of strength, can have a huge personal impact. From what we already know about these courageous and determined women, the only way from here is up.


We also know this is just the start of working relationships that benefit us all. As Diana, one of the award-winners, said after the ceremony, “it has been a huge pleasure – and I hope this will be a start for partnership work for the future”. The Forum hopes the Awards continue to impact throughout the year and look forward to seeing all our supporters – and more extraordinary women – in 2015! There may be only one day to celebrate international women, but Women on the Move are changing lives everyday.


In the second of three reports, supported by Barrow Cadbury Fund and Unbound Philanthropy, aimed at setting a ‘liberal’ immigration agenda before the next General Election, CentreForum argues that politicians must restore confidence in the immigration system without jettisoning key liberal principles such as freedom and tolerance.


The report ‘Migration: a liberal challenge’proposes that migrants should be required to pay a £2,000 National Insurance advance upon first entering the UK.  As well as the National Insurance proposal, which would apply to non-EU economic migrants only, CentreForum’s report contains plans to extend the period before EU migrants can claim out of work benefits to 12 months.


It also joins calls to scrap the Conservative Party’s policy of reducing net migration to “the tens of thousands”, describing this target as “perverse” and “unfulfillable”. CentreForum instead recommends a broader migration and population change target that would be set at the beginning of every Parliament.


Find out more about CentreForum’s work.


Follow CentreForum on Twitter @CentreForum



A new research report by NIESR, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, turns its attention from the short term impacts of migration on labour markets to the long term relationship between migration an productivity. Through interviewing employers, the general public and carrying out data analysis, the research found a positive influence of increases in migrants in the workforce as well as a disparity between public opinion and the characteristics of migrant workers in the UK.


Migration and productivity: employer’s practices, public attitudes and statistical evidence found three main reason for why employers recruit from outside the UK; when the supply of skills from inside the UK is deficient, to recruit high skill levels which are in short supply across the globe and top complement the skills of non-migrants.


This stands in contrast to the perceptions of focus group members who tended to focus on low skilled, low paid Eastern European migrants when think in migrant workers in the UK.


Employers believed that the varied experiences and perspectives that migrants can bring to the workplace create teams with different strengths and more dynamic workplaces. This was accepted by the focus group participants. However, both participants and employees could see the challenges of diverse teams, particularly when language skills and cultural understanding were deficient, but these were considered to be minor issues with positives of diverse teams outweighing the bad.


An analysis of data between 1997 and 2007 found that the number of migrants working in more sectors has increased, and migrants tend to be more educated and work longer hours than those born in the UK. There was a positive correlation between the share of migrants in region-sectors and labour productivity as well as a significant positive association between increases in the employment of migrants and labour productivity.


Read the full report online here.

In a cross-post from British Future marking the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service, Douglas Jefferson explains why he and his family remain grateful to the NHS.


In 1986 I was born 13 weeks premature by emergency caesarean. Normally parents get to hold their babies as they enter the outside world, but for my parents they could only stare at me in a box. Normally they can hear their child cry and breathe; my parents could hear only silence punctuated by the regular bleep of a heart monitor. Thanks to significant advances it is almost routine for children born as early as myself to survive. In fact, seven out of 10 do, but the odds were not as much in my favour back then.


Despite a bleak outlook numerous doctors and nurses worked hard, resulting in my condition stabilising within a few weeks. However, it was a while before I was out of the woods. I had developed a hernia and once again was in need of urgent treatment. The doctors at Pilgrim had to move me on to the care of Leela Kapila, a renowned specialist, who saved my life.


My family never forgot the actions of the staff at the Pilgrim, and particularly Kapila. And so, every year on my birthday, my parents and I became pilgrims ourselves, visiting the team at the hospital and presenting them with a birthday cake to say thank you.


I cannot begin to calculate the cost of all the doctors, nurses and medical equipment required to treat me in those early weeks, but I’m fairly sure I am still in arrears. So many of us owe our lives to the NHS and I certainly do, yet too often we can take it for granted. Indeed I often did myself as I complained about spending my birthday in a maternity ward rather than a theme park.


Douglas Jefferson outside the Pilgrim hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire, on his 18th birthday

Douglas Jefferson outside the Pilgrim hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire, on his 18th birthday

Regular newspaper headlines will highlight poor performing hospitals, while statistics will tell us about increased rates of infections or waiting times. However, my experience of the NHS is very much a positive, happy story, which is also the case for plenty of others.


As the NHS turns 65, I am once again reminded that it is an institution I am incredibly proud of, as well as thankful for. As a result it’s a good time to reflect on our own stories with the NHS and to thank all the people who keep it running every day, helping people of all ages and welcoming new generations into the NHS. While I no longer bake birthday cakes, I am still just as thankful to the NHS and all the people who contribute to it.



Read British Future’s special briefing marking the NHS’s 65th birthday.