Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Lawmaker sees issue through undocumented past

State Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna stood before the House on the afternoon of May 9, hours after lawmakers passed the controversial “sanctuary city” bill, and started reading from a prepared statement, her eyes downcast.
“Immigration and all that it encompasses is very personal for me because I was an undocumented immigrant,” Hernandez Luna, 32, said in a halting and teary speech. “You may prefer to use the word illegal alien, but I'm not an alien. I am not a problem that must be handled. I'm a human — a person standing before you now as a representative for the Texas House.”
With her roughly five-minute speech, she did what some would consider crazy in the current political climate. She tried to put a human face — her own — on the illegal immigration issue.
“I believe they have a perception of what an undocumented immigrant should be, and I don't fit in that,” she said in a recent interview. Some of her colleagues across the aisle were unmoved — at least from a policy perspective. They have a firm hold on the House and had overwhelmingly passed HB 12. The bill, which ultimately failed to make it through the Senate, would have kept local governments from prohibiting their police from enforcing federal immigration laws.
“She's a real sweet gal,” said State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball. “I admire the difficulties that she has overcome, but I still stand strong that we have got to protect our borders. We need to enforce our laws.”
Hernandez Luna said her parents packed up a single suitcase and brought her to Houston from Reynosa, Mexico, as an infant, along with her 4-year-old sister. They shared a brick duplex just outside downtown with her father's cousin. They overstayed their visitor's visas, and lived undocumented for eight years.
Working her way up
Her parents paid taxes, she said, and bought a house in Houston within about five years. She remembers fearing as a little girl that her mother would be picked up by immigration agents staking out the local Fiesta grocery store, or that her father would not come home after one of his overnight warehouse shifts.
Celia Fleischman, principal at Gardens Elementary School in Pasadena, said she remembered Hernandez Luna struggling with her English, but quickly catching on. Her mother worked in the school cafeteria, and Hernandez Luna would come in early and sleep in the corner, waiting for school to start. She always had her nose in a book, and was ready to speak up for others, Fleischman said.
“She was very smart and opinionated, even as a little girl. I know why now,” Fleischman said with a laugh.
But Hernadez Luna was shy when it came to where her family was from.
She remembers her parents' relief when Congress, under President Reagan, passed the 1986 amnesty that granted legal status to an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants. As her family sank deeper roots, opening their own restaurant at a flea market, Hernandez Luna graduated from high school at 16, gained citizenship at 18, attended the University of Houston and interned at the state capitol. Out of college, she spent two years working at the capitol before enrolling in the University of Texas School of Law.
Not long after starting her first job as a lawyer, one of the legislators she had worked for, Rep. Joe Moreno, died in a car accident. His staffers and supporters asked her to run in a special election for his seat, she said, and she took an eight-month, unpaid leave of absence to campaign.
She handily beat her opponent, and at age 27, she started representing District 143, a solidly working-class, predominantly Hispanic neighborhood that sprawls alongside the Houston Ship Channel east of downtown.
Her immigration history didn't come up during the 2005 campaign, she said.
“I've never hidden the fact that I was born in Mexico. It's on my bio, ‘born in Reynosa,'” she said. “At the time I ran in 2005, we really didn't have that anti-immigrant sentiment.”
Who gets opportunity?
Hernandez Luna said she has no aspirations for a higher office. She is married to an attorney, practices law full-time when the Legislature is not in session, and is talking about starting a family.
For now, her attention is largely focused on bread-and-butter issues. Immigration enforcement is a federal issue, not one for state legislatures, she said. She remembers bristling the first time she shared her immigration story with fellow lawmakers, at a late-night committee meeting in 2007, when Riddle, the Tomball Republican, said something to the effect of, “You've been given a gift from God.”
“My response to her was, ‘I haven't been given anything. My parents and I have worked very hard for everything I have been able to achieve and accomplish.'”
Riddle remembers it slightly differently.
“I told her she had been blessed, yes indeed,” Riddle said. “When somebody says that they're blessed, that doesn't mean that they're laying under a shade tree sipping on lemonade and the blessings just fall on top of them.”
On one point, the two lawmakers agree: the issue comes down to opportunity. But they remain worlds apart on who is entitled to it.
“I'm grateful for the opportunity that I've been given, and I think it is incumbent upon me to ensure that others have that opportunity,” Hernandez Luna said. “We're not giving anything away. We're giving you the opportunity.”

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Unnecessary immigration appeals to end

 An end to late evidence in points-based system appeals will help stop misuse of the system, Immigration Minister Damian Green said today.
From Monday 23 May, tribunals will not consider evidence submitted after an application has been made, in appeals relating to applications made in the UK under the points-based system.
UK Border Agency statistics show that around two-thirds of appeals allowed by immigration judges are due to late evidence being submitted.
The rules change is designed to end unnecessary appeals and help make sure that applications are right first time. It will apply to all applications made within the UK through the points-based system.
Damian Green said:
'For too long, the taxpayer has had to shoulder the burden of a system which allowed individuals to drag out their appeal by submitting new evidence at the last minute.
'The changes I am making today will put an end to this practice for good.'
The minister added that this is one of a raft of improvements that will make the system 'more robust, efficient and cost effective'.
The government has already introduced an annual limit on economic migrants from outside the EU, as well as making major reforms to the student visa system.
These measures are aimed at attracting the brightest and the best, while reducing net migration and tackling abuse of the system.
The Minister announced the commencement of the rules change in a written ministerial statement, which you can download from the right side of this page.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

SC legislators OK anti-illegal immigration bill

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's House Judiciary Committee voted 15-7 on Tuesday to advance a bill that would require law enforcement to check the status of people they suspect of being in the country illegally during a stop or arrest for something else. Opponents argued that the measure would worsen racial profiling and flies in the face of American freedoms.
Republicans who control the House have called the bill a priority for the session, which ends in two weeks. Approval by the full House would send the bill to a conference committee to work out differences with senators over their version passed earlier this year.
The measure requires law enforcement to try to check the status of people they suspect are in the country illegally. It specifies that the query must follow a stop or arrest for something else. Unlike a law passed in Arizona last year, it says people can't be held on the suspicion. Instead, they must be processed normally if authorities don't respond or can't verify the person's status.
But Rep. Todd Rutherford argued the bill is too open-ended. Without defining reasonable suspicion, or how long someone could be held up on the side of the road, legislators are opening the door for abuse, he said.
Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, said if someone can't speak English well and doesn't have identification, that's reasonable suspicion.
Rutherford, who is black, recalled when an officer with a baton told him to cross to the other side of the street for no reason, while others walked by. For legislators to say that only illegal immigrants will be targeted is naïve, he said, adding that his white colleagues will never understand how such treatment feels.
"It happens to illegals and people like me who don't have the benefit of your color," said Rutherford, D-Columbia. "It will only get worse with this bill."
Rep. Bakari Sellers said it's hypocritical for Republicans to talk about cutting government spending while pushing a bill that expands law enforcement's duties and creates a new unit within the Department of Public Safety to enforce state immigration laws.
The 26-year-old Denmark Democrat said foreign college students and others visiting legally will be targeted too.
Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, said they should expect to carry around their paperwork, noting she just returned from a trip overseas.
"When I travel in foreign countries, I don't go anywhere without my passport," she said.
Supporters said the cost of providing education, emergency room health care and other services to illegal immigrants far outweighs the cost of the bill. They said they hope it prompts illegal workers to flee.
The measure would also make it a felony to make fake photo IDs for illegal immigrants. It would also toughen a measure passed in 2008 that put the onus on businesses to check their employees' legal status. It began applying to businesses of all sizes last year.
The change would allow the state's labor agency to fine businesses up to $50,000 if they're repeatedly caught not checking employees' status or for knowingly hiring illegal workers, then refuse to comply with a temporary shut-down order.
Freshman Rep. Tom Corbin, who runs a landscape business, said he knows from experience that businesses employing illegal workers get an unfair advantage because they pay their workers less and can bid jobs for less money. The Travelers Rest Republican said legislators need to give the agency the ability to enforce the laws.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Georgia passes anti-immigration bill

US: Thousands of people marched for immigration reform, among other issues. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP)
US: Thousands of people marched for immigration reform, among other issues.

“Today is a dark day for Georgia,” says the state’s Association of Latino Elected Officials Executive Director Jerry Gonzalez on Friday.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law on Friday a bill that gives authority for police to question suspects in regards to their immigration status, similar to the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act enacted last year in Arizona, viewed as the strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in memory for most Americans.
Despite threats of court challenges and economic boycotts directed toward the Peach State, Governor Deal passed Georgia House Bill 87 early Friday, saying "Today, we are taking action to uphold the rule of law."
In addition to allowing police to profile suspects in regards to their citizenship, the new immigration enforcement measure also sets new hiring requirements for employers, who will now be required to check the status of newly hired workers on E-Verify, a federal database. Supporters make claims that illegal immigrants have taken jobs from Georgians and have caused a burden on the state’s school system, hospitals and jails.
At around 425,000 people, Georgia has the seventh-highest number of illegal immigrants in the 50 United States. Those that make up that tally, say supporters of the bill, are reaping in the benefits of the state’s tax-paying population.
Others, however, are adamantly opposed to what Gonzalez and fellow activists believe will be a sure-fire fallout in response to the bill’s passing. Members of the state’s agricultural, landscaping and hospitality industries fear that the bill will shatter the state’s economy as migrant workers flee Georgia. In preparation of the bill’s passing, the US Human Rights Network has already canceled plans to have its annual conference in Atlanta. The state’s tourism industry itself is said to generate around $10 billion.
"Our concern stems from the very serious economic repercussions that will be felt against our state on numerous fronts and the very serious civil and human rights abuses that will also likely follow,” says Gonzalez.
Opposition has existed since talk of the bill first began, and those rallying against its ratification have long been plotting legal action.
Before Governor Deal took pen to paper, Charles Kuck made claims that he looks “forward to stopping this unconstitutional law from ever taking effect.” Kuck, an immigration attorney working near Atlanta, has also served in the past as president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, told the Atlantic Journal-Constitution that the bill “is not only an insult to the Latino community and other immigrants, but is also an exercise in cheap political pandering that will cost our state dearly.”
“This is not the end, only the beginning of a new stage. This law can and must be fought; and it can and will be defeated,” adds Nicholls.
Starting July 1, illegal immigrants with falsified documentation face up to 15 years in prison in Georgia. Local and state police will be able to incarcerate illegal immigrants in state and federal jails and even those that encourage immigrants to come to Georgia could face penalties of $1,000.
Come 2012, state and local government agencies will require people applying for food stamps, housing assistance and other public benefits to provide valid documentation.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Anti-immigration poll 'disturbing'

Anti-racism campaigners said an immigration survey has painted a 'disturbing picture' of society's attitudes
Anti-racism campaigners said an immigration survey has painted a 'disturbing picture' of society's attitudes

Almost two-thirds of white Britons think immigration has been bad for the UK, according to a survey which anti-racism campaigners called a "disturbing picture" of society's attitudes.
Research commissioned by the Searchlight Educational Trust also found that Asians were most likely to back a halt to all immigration, at least until the economy had recovered.
Labour MP Jon Cruddas said the findings should "ricochet through the body politic" as they showed the potential for the rise of the far-right unless mainstream parties acted soon.
The poll, carried out by Populus, was one of the largest studies carried out on the subject, based on 91 questions to more than 5,000 individuals.
Immigration was held to have been on the whole a bad thing for Britain by 63% of whites, 43% of Asians and 17% of black Britons. It found that 39% of Asians, 34% of whites and 21% of blacks believed immigration should be halted either permanently or at least until the UK's economy was back on track.
Almost half (48%) were open to supporting a new far-right party as long as it eschewed "fascist imagery" and did not condone violence. And 52% agreed that "Muslims create problems in the UK". Ethnic minority communities generally feel less "proud" at seeing the English flag flown - though only 25% of whites questioned said they felt that emotion.
The Trust said the report, titled Fear And Hope - The New Politics Of Identity, "paints a disturbing picture of our attitudes towards each another and the unknown".
"It also graphically highlights the dangers that lie ahead if the issues highlighted in the research are not addressed. Fear And Hope throws down a challenge to the political parties to really understand what is happening in the body politic and then do something about it."
Director Nick Lowles pointed to some positive findings: "Young people are more hopeful about the future and more open to living in an ethnically diverse society.
"The vast majority of people reject political violence and view white anti-Muslim extremists as bad as Muslim extremists and there is overwhelming support for a positive campaign against extremism."

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Mexico criticizes new U.S. anti-immigration law

Mexico Friday criticized the U.S. state of Georgia for approving legislation targeting illegal immigrants.

"It criminalizes migration and opens spaces for the possible misapplication of the law by local officials," Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said the U.S. lawmakers and the governor "ignored the numerous contributions of the immigrant communities to the economy and society of that state."

Georgia state governor Nathan Deal signed the legislation, known as SB 87, into law on Friday. He said the new rules were meant to save tax dollars and allow local officials to act on migration matters that have not been addressed by the U.S. federal government.

The new law allows law enforcement officers to inquire about a suspect's immigration status and imposes penalties on those transporting or hiring illegal immigrants.

However, similar legislation approved last year in Arizona has been partially suspended by a U.S. court.

Millions of Mexicans have immigrated to the United States in search of better economic opportunities, but the number of Mexicans heading north has fallen over the past five years.

The National Institute of Geography and Statistics (INEGI) recently reported that an average of 145,000 Mexicans have left the country annually over the past five years, compared with an annual figure of 450,000 for 2000-2005.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Death sentence for US anti-migration activist Shawna Forde

Shawna Forde (centre) listening to opening arguments in her murder trial Forde (centre) orchestrated the robbery
An anti-immigration activist has been sentenced to death for the 2009 murder of a nine year-old-girl and her father.
Shawna Forde, 43, organised a break-in at the Arizona home of Raul Flores apparently to fund her group, which campaigns against illegal immigration.
But the burglary went wrong and 29-year-old Mr Flores was shot dead along with his daughter Brisenia.
Forde was convicted of first-degree murder. Her alleged accomplices have yet to be tried.
She was was also convicted of attempted murder and robbery.
The girl's mother, Gina Gonzales, survived being shot and later identified her attackers.
During the trial, the jury was told the young girl had pleaded with her attackers to not fire on her, but was still shot in the head.
Forde and two men dressed as police officers forced their way into Mr Flores' home in Arivaca, 10 miles (16km) north of the Mexican border.
She apparently believed there were drugs on the premises and had planned to sell them to fund her group of so-called border vigilantes, known as the Minutemen American Defense.
Forde began her own group after reportedly being expelled from the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a national volunteer group which monitors US borders for illegal immigrants.
Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush, Forde's alleged accomplices, are scheduled to go on trial later this year.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Migrationwatch calls for firmer action on sham marriages

From Monday 9 May, the government is being obliged by the courts to abandon its requirement that a marriage or civil partnership involving a partner subject to immigration control must have the prior permission of the Home Office (a “Certificate of Approval”).
Migrationwatch therefore called today for Registrars to be given a new power to delay suspicious marriages for up to three months to allow time for them to be investigated. This, of itself, would be a deterrent to bogus applicants
(See Briefing Paper No 8.53 below).
They also suggested tougher checks when those with marriage certificates applied for Leave to Remain – the second stage of the process. The Immigration Rules require that the couple intend to live together permanently as man and wife without recourse to public funds. In cases of sham marriages this would clearly not be the case.
Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch, said “Sham marriages are a huge cost to the tax payer as they admit the bogus partner to the full panoply of welfare benefits, including housing. The courts have given full weight to the human rights of applicants but none to those of the tax payer. Tougher measures, proof against further appeals, are now needed to deal with the situation that has resulted.

Legal 8.53

The prevention of sham marriages

1 For some years sham marriages – marriages intended to avoid immigration rules – have been a significant problem. Figures from Brent alone showed an increasing number of marriages year by year: 1,205 in 2002, 2,700 in 2003 and 3,700 in 2004.
2 Accordingly, in 2004, the government sought to introduce a system of control over civil marriages whereby, if one party was subject to immigration control, the couple had to have the prior written permission of the Home Secretary – known as a Certificate of Approval.
3 In 2007 this system was challenged in the courts and was rejected by the Court of Appeal on two grounds :
(i) That the system was disproportionate because it applied to all weddings with foreign nationals in order to deal with what was thought to be a small proportion of them.

(ii) That it was discriminatory because it applied to civil weddings but not to Anglican marriages conducted in a church.
4 The second of these points has now been dealt with by the Anglican church, perhaps spurred into action by the case of a vicar in Sussex who was convicted of conducting over 300 sham marriages. There is now a requirement for a licence to be obtained from the Diocesan Registrar before a marriage is conducted with someone subject to immigration control. That licence will not be granted unless it has been established that the marriage is genuine.
5 The second point will be dealt with from 9 May from which date the Home Office have announced that they will abolish the Certificates of Approval scheme.
6 The situation is now, in effect, reversed with some control over church weddings but not over civil weddings. There remains a requirement on Registrars of civil marriages to report suspected sham marriages to the Home Secretary [1] but they do not have power to investigate the genuineness of an intended marriage or to delay or refuse to conduct it.
7 It is also relevant that the marriage, of itself, does not confer an automatic right to reside indefinitely in the UK. Permission for Extended or Indefinite Leave to Remain has to be applied for separately. This requires the applicants to show that the parties intend to live together permanently as man and wife, that they have adequate accommodation for themselves and any dependants and will be able to maintain themselves and any depends without recourse to public funds. We believe that the granting of this permission to remain has been almost automatic in the past.
Accordingly, we make two proposals:
(a) A new power to delay We suggest that registrars be given power to impose a delay of up to three months in suspicious cases to allow a time for investigation. Appeals are unlikely but there could be provision for an appeal to the First Tier of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Tribunal.
(b) A stronger check at the ELR/ILR point We further suggest that the grant of an Extension of Stay or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) should be the point at which the validity of the marriage is checked before either is granted. The Immigration Rules require that each of the parties to the marriage "intends to live permanently with the other as his or her spouse". Clearly, this is not the case for sham marriages and this should be detectable at the point where an Extension or Indefinite Leave to Remain is considered. Those involved in sham marriages should be denied ILR, removed and their cases should be publicised as a warning to others.
3 May, 2011

Monday, 9 May 2011

UK Border Agency 'failing over visa controls'

Man against window in silhouette The UK Border Agency put profits before securing the country's borders, the report said
Immigration staff are failing to take action against hundreds of migrant workers who have no right to stay in Britain, a critical report has found.
John Vine, an independent chief inspector of the UK Border Agency, said the visas of migrants whose jobs had ended were not being cancelled.
He also found insufficient checks were being carried out on companies which sponsor overseas workers.
Immigration minister Damian Green said the system was being improved.
The report comes as the government announced non-European Union workers earning more than £150,000 a year and some scientists were to be excluded from the government's immigration cap.
Mr Green said the UK had to attract the brightest and the best to promote recovery.
Mr Vine's report examined the government's points-based system for skilled workers who want to come to the UK.
It found there were 150 cases where the visas of migrants who had finished jobs and were required to leave the UK were not cancelled.
And there were likely to be many more because of a backlog of 3,000 potential cases as yet unprocessed, it added.
Job cuts

Mr Vine said he was concerned the agency was not visiting the firms who hire or sponsor migrant staff.
He told the BBC: "The Border Agency needs to do the appropriate checks on the sponsor, and satisfy itself of course that they are a bona fide employer and that their employment exists.
"And that's why I was concerned about the visit to the premises not having been carried out in all cases."
His report also found inconsistent approaches to decision-making, with some applicants refused because of minor omissions, and others given extra time to supply the missing information.
The agency had put profits before securing the UK's borders with an emphasis "always on income-generating work first", Mr Vine added.
And he called for the agency to act promptly to return those living in the UK illegally.
"If people no longer qualify to stay in the UK according to their visa conditions, then they must be required to leave the country," he said.
"Many staff perceived that quality of decision-making and controlling immigration were not as much of a priority for the UK Border Agency as generating income and providing customer service."
'Making it worse' Shadow immigration minister Gerry Sutcliffe said ministers were cutting 5,200 jobs at the agency at the "very time we need to improve enforcement and tackle illegal immigration.
"As the independent chief inspector's report today makes clear, UKBA faces a resources challenge and the government is intent on making it worse," he said.
Immigration minister Mr Green agreed changes needed to be made to ensure the system was effective.
He said: "We do regulate sponsors properly, but obviously I'm very interested in what the chief inspector has to say and, if we do need to improve the UKBA systems, we will do so."
He said communication among agency staff and the IT systems had been improved to ensure the system was moving "in the right direction".

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sarkozy and Berlusconi to call for return of border controls in Europe

French president and Italian prime minister want to curb passport-free EU travel after row over north African immigrants
  • Refugees from Libya in Lampedusa
    Refugees from Libya arrive on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
    Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi are expected to call on Tuesday for a partial reintroduction of national border controls across Europe, a move that would put the brakes on European integration and curb passport-free travel for more than 400 million people in 25 countries. The French president and the Italian prime minister are meeting in Rome after weeks of tension between their two countries over how to cope with an influx of more than 25,000 immigrants fleeing revolutions in north Africa. The migrants, mostly Tunisian, reached the EU by way of Italian islands such as Lampedusa, but many hoped to get work in France where they have relatives and friends. Earlier this month, Berlusconi's government outraged several EU governments, including France, by offering the migrants temporary residence permits which, in principle, allowed them to travel to other member states under the Schengen agreement. An Italian junior minister said on Sunday that Rome had so far issued some 8,000 permits and expected the number would rise to 11,000. Launched in 1995, Schengen allows passport-free travel in most of the EU, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. But the documents issued by the Italian authorities are only valid if the holders can show they have the means to support themselves, and French police have rounded up or turned back an unknown number of migrants in recent days. On 17 April, Paris blocked trains crossing the frontier at Ventimiglia in protest at the Italian initiative. "Rarely have the two countries seemed so far apart," said Le Monde in an editorial on Monday. Yet, with both leaders under pressure from the far right, French and Italian officials appear to have agreed a common position on amending Schengen so that national border checks can be reintroduced in "special circumstances". According to a report from Paris in the Italian daily La Repubblica, the two countries would also press for an increase in EU assistance to those countries that have to cope with immigrant influxes – a key Italian demand. On Saturday, Berlusconi's spokesman said: "Agreement has been reached." Indications of a deal have prompted outrage from the French opposition. Harlem Désir of the Socialist party said: "Sarkozy and Berlusconi are disgracing Europe." A joint initiative would certainly be an historic departure for two countries that have long been regarded as among the most fervently "European". Schengen is seen as the EU's most significant integration project after the euro. Now both are under pressure, a sign of the tensions eating away at the union. Sarkozy, low in the polls and hoping for re-election next year, is threatened by the Front National and its leader, Marine Le Pen, who calls for the total scrapping of Schengen. Berlusconi, whose poll ratings have also been sliding, is dependent for his majority in parliament on the xenophobic Northern League, one of whose leaders, Roberto Maroni, is Italy's interior minister. Even before the exodus from Tunisia, gains by far-right, anti-immigrant parties in north Europe had put Schengen under strain. Centrist parties in Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands have all tried to appease the far right by threatening to re-erect national border controls. EU interior ministers are to meet on 12 May to try to resolve the issue. A joint Franco-Italian demand would need to be endorsed at EU level. It has been framed against a background of mutual exasperation with Greece over its difficulties in policing its frontier with Turkey, an EU external border thought to be the main crossing point into the union for clandestine migrants. Seaborne migration to islands such as Lampedusa, though highly visible, accounts for only a fraction of the total number of illegal entries. Italy, however, is concerned that an end to the hostilities in Libya could prompt a renewed surge in attempted crossings by people who would not necessarily want to move to other EU states. Alfredo Mantovano, the junior interior minister responsible for immigration, said "the number of people involved could be 50,000".

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Demographic pressures and political instability in North African countries.

  • Recent instability and revolutionary change in the North African region has highlighted the potential for large flows of migrants into Europe.
  • The five Arab countries of North Africa have rapidly growing populations. Egypt, at 84 million, already has a larger population than Germany.
  • Their population grew from 45 million in 1950 to 170 million today - an increase of 125 million, or 2 million people a year on average.
  • Youth unemployment is very high with three million 15- 24 year olds unemployed (excluding Libya where no figures are available).
  • Before the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, all these countries were governed by regimes which were regarded as being repressive, authoritarian and corrupt.
1   The Arab countries of North Africa have been the source of substantial migration, both illegal and legal, into Europe. Some countries in the region - notably Libya and Morocco – have also been used for transit by migrants originating in the countries south of the Sahara to immigrate clandestinely into Europe. Estimates of the Sub-Saharan population of Libya, mostly illegal, range up to 2 million. So far, the numbers coming to Britain have been limited (Annex A).
2   Since January this year three countries in North Africa - Egypt, Libya and Tunisia -  have experienced acute political unrest and change. Some of the factors behind these developments are unique to each of these countries, but they also share some social and political characteristics with other countries in the region:
  • All have very high rates of unemployment among those aged 15 - 24.
  • These young people constituted about one fifth of the populations. Their number has been growing very rapidly over recent decades but is expected to decline somewhat over the next twenty years in Algeria Tunisia and Morocco.
  • All of these countries to varying degrees have (or had) governments which were authoritarian, politically repressive, and often corrupt.
Demographic pressures

3   Demographic pressures, illustrated in the graph below have been a key factor in driving political and social unrest:
Figure 1
4   Below are summarised some of the consequences of this rapid population increase over the sixty years from 1950 (see also the tables in Annex B).
1950 - 2010
  • Between 1950 and 2010 populations of these five countries grew almost  fourfold, from 44 million to almost 170 million in 2010 - an increase of over 125 million which is over 2 million a year.
  • In 1950, the total population of these countries was lower than that of the UK; by 2010,  their combined population was almost three times that of the UK
  • In 1950, the combined population of these countries, at 44 million was one-third that of those European countries (France, Greece, Italy and Spain) facing them across the Mediterranean. By 2010 their population was 169 million - a gap of only 10 million.
  • The biggest increase was in Egypt, where population grew by over 60 million.
  • Over the same period, the total number of people aged 15 to 24  in all these countries increased by over 25 million to 34 million - averaging over half a million every year
  • Excluding Libya, for which there are no data, numbers of young unemployed in 2005 in the remaining four countries totalled over 3 million.
2010 – 2030
  • The projected population growth in these countries over the next 20 year period is 46 million, or almost 2.5 million a year, to a total of 215 million.
Economic and social stability
5   Arab countries in the Middle East are reported by the ILO as having the highest rates of unemployment in the world. Unemployment rates for young people - aged 15 to 24 - are tabulated below for four of these countries:
Country Unemployment Rate (%) for Young people (15 – 24)
Algeria 2008 24
Egypt 2007 25
Libya N/A
Morocco 2008 18
Tunisia 2005 31
Source: ILO
Political instability
6   The countries of this region have had governments that are authoritarian, undemocratic and corrupt. Below are results for these countries in two indices that measure democracy and corruption and facilitate comparison between countries (the index dates from 2010 and therefore does not reflect the recent revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia):
Democracy Index
Country Regime Type World Ranking (out of 167)
Algeria Authoritarian 125
Egypt Authoritarian 138
Libya Authoritarian 158
Morocco Authoritarian 116
Tunisia Authoritarian 146
Source: Economist Intelligence Unit
7   Three out of five of these countries are in the bottom quintile of rankings, and the two others are not far removed from it.
Corruption Index
Country World Ranking (out of 178)
Algeria 105
Egypt 98
Libya 146
Morocco 85
Tunisia 59
Source: Transparency International
8   Whilst comparisons with other countries using this index are more encouraging, only two countries - Morocco and Tunisia - are not in the bottom half of rankings.
31 March, 2011
Annex A
Figure 1  Grants of Asylum from Algeria and Libya between 2000 and 2009. Source: Control of Immigration Statistics 2009.
Figure 2  Grants of settlement from North Africa between 2000 and 2009. Source: Control of Immigration Statistics 2009.
Annex B
Table 1: Total Population
Country 1950 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030
Algeria 8753 18811 25283 30506 35423 40630 44726
Egypt 21514 44433 57785 70174 84474 98638 110907
Libya 1029 3063 4365 5346 6546 7699 8519
Morocco 8953 19567 24805 28827 32381 36200 39259
Tunisia 3530 6457 8215 9452 10374 11366 12127
TOTAL 43779 92331 120453 144305 169198 194533 215538
Table 2: Percentage of Population Aged  15 - 24
Country 1950 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030
Algeria 18.6 19.3 20.4 22.6 20.5 14.8 15.5
Egypt 19 19.7 18.4 20.9 20.2 17.4 17.2
Libya 18.5 18.2 21.1 24.3 17.3 16.3 17
Morocco 19.2 20.7 20.2 21.1 19.7 16 15.6
Tunisia 18.2 21.1 20 20.7 19.3 13.7 13.3
Table 3: Numbers of People Aged 15 - 24
Country 1950 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030
Algeria 1628 3631 5158 6894 7262 6013 6933
Egypt 4088 8753 10632 14666 17064 17163 19076
Libya 190 557 921 1299 1132 1255 1448
Morocco 1719 4050 5011 6082 6379 5792 6124
Tunisia 642 1362 1643 1957 2002 1557 1613
TOTAL 8268 18354 23365 30899 33839 31780 35194
Source: UN World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database
Note: Data for 2010 – 2030 is projected using ‘medium variant’assumption.
Table 4: Numbers of Young - 15 to 24 - Unemployed (‘000)
Country 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Algeria 1081.4 N/A 996 762.3 699.1 536.4 596.6 528
Egypt 1385.7 1152.7 1476.9 1521.1 1762.5 1632.6 1342.7
Morocco 498.7 461.7 466 425.4 420.9 414.9 428.6 449.4
Tunisia 202.8 208.3 206.2 193.6 205.9 N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 3168.6 N/A 3145.1 2902.4 3088.4 N/A N/A N/A
Source: ILO
Note: There are no data for Libya

North African Crisis Could Test the Asylum System to Destruction

The recent instability caused by revolutionary change and military conflict in some Arab countries in North Africa has the potential to generate substantial flows of migrants into the EU. EU Ministers will meet on 11 May to consider what might be done.
Some migrants will be genuine refugees but many will be economic migrants. Anyone who sets foot in the UK and claims asylum has the right under the 1951 Refugee Convention to have his or her case heard and also has a right of appeal if refused. Applicants are supported by the taxpayer throughout the process which takes months, and often years. The UK's record in removing those whose cases eventually fail is extremely poor.
In theory, the UK can return economic migrants who claim asylum to the EU country in which they first arrived but that requires proof of their point of arrival which is often impossible to obtain.
The countries of North Africa are already struggling with large and rapidly growing populations; now 170 million, they are projected to reach 215 million in 2030. Youth unemployment rates range from 18% in Morocco to 31% in Tunisia, giving a total of three million young unemployed in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia (no figures are available for Libya).
In recent times the Italians have circumvented the Refugee Convention by having the Libyan and Tunisian navies turn back economic migrants before they could set foot on EU territory. That arrangement is unlikely to continue.
There is now a clear risk of a massive inflow of economic migrants to the EU, many of whom will claim asylum. If this should happen we can expect much greater pressure on the Channel ports from those who prefer to seek asylum in Britain. The asylum system, already creaking, could collapse under the weight of numbers as it did in 2000 - 2002 when a peak flow left the Home Office hiding half a million files in a warehouse.
Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said "We must not bury our heads in the sand. We should build on President Sarkozy's proposal for humanitarian zones in North Africa to accommodate those who are displaced for economic or other reasons. This would make it easier for them to return home when the situation improves, as was the case with Afghanistan.”