The British Labour Party's embarrassing immigration secrets revealed
Reports kept under wraps by Labour showing that immigrants who came to Britain from Romania and Bulgaria had low education levels and were more likely to claim out-of-work benefits are to be released for the first time by ministers.
The figures are contained in five separate controversial studies commissioned by the last Labour government but never published - amid claims the party wanted to avoid a damaging row about its record before last year’s general election.
Ministers accused Labour of a “disturbing cover up” and promised to publish the reports - which cost the taxpayer a total of £165,000 and have now been seen by The Sunday Telegraph - in full within days.
The documents also contain revelations that immigrants from all countries into Britain are more likely to be out of work than the native population - and are less likely to engage in any form of “civic participation.”
More than one third of London’s population, moreover, has now been born outside the UK.
The release will turn the spotlight once again on the party’s controversial record on immigration. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, used a weekend interview to admit the party had “got things wrong” on the issue.
Up until 2008 the Labour government was criticised for effectively operating an “open door” policy which saw a massive rise in the number of visas, work permits and extended residency being granted.
Gordon Brown’s government then introduced a new “points based” system which was designed to make it harder for non-skilled people to come to Britain from outside the European Union.
However, particular controversy surrounded the rules governing immigration from countries which joined the EU during the first decade of this century - which included Bulgaria and Romania (which joined in 2007) and Poland (2004).
Labour ministers repeatedly promised that restrictions would be placed on those coming in from Eastern Europe in order to “manage” numbers and protect jobs for British workers. However, the secret reports show that 27 per cent of people coming from Bulgaria and Romania had “low education levels” while as of 2009 more than 15 per cent of them were claiming out-of-work benefits.
The documents, commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) reveal that immigrants from the two countries are more likely to claim unemployment-related benefits than either non-immigrants or other migrant groups in Britain.
A report said that despite the implementation of a “cap” on numbers, the migration rate into Britain from Romania and Bulgaria increased significantly after the countries joined the EU in 2007.
Meanwhile, migrants from the two countries were shown to be more likely to have four children or more than people coming to Britain from elsewhere - placing a significant strain on the education system, particularly in London where over half the Bulgarians and Romanians who came settled. More than three in every 100 migrants from Bulgaria and Romania had five children or more.
One of the five reports, Identifying Social and Economic Push and Pull Factors for Migration to the UK by Bulgarian and Romanian Nationals, showed that while Bulgaria’s and Romania’s population declined between 2004 and 2010, Britain’s increased considerably.
During that period the two countries’ unemployment rate fell, while the UK’s rose.
Another report on overall immigration, The Socio-Economic Integration of Migrants, claimed: “Immigrants in the UK exhibit lower employment rates than natives....Immigrants are on average less likely than natives to engage in any form civic participation.”
A further document, Drivers of International Migration, stated: “The increase in immigration into the UK since the mid 1990s is entirely explained by a rise in the number of foreign-born people migrating to the UK from abroad, rather than by returning UK-born people.”
At the start of the 1980s the key annual “net immigration” figure for the UK was minus 42,000 - meaning tens of thousands more people left Britain every year than came here. By 1992-95 this figure had gone up to plus 9,200 - while by the period between 2004 and 2007 it had mushroomed to plus 178,000 a year.
Britain’s population was slated to increase by more than four million to 65.6 million between 2008 and 2018, while by 2008 over one third of London’s population (34 per cent) was born outside Britain.
Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, said: “This is another disturbing cover-up by a Labour Party that failed on immigration and then tried to bury the truth. “‘This Government is bringing immigration under control to restore public confidence in the system left broken by Labour.”
The Coalition’s policy of putting an overall cap on immigrant numbers from outside the EU is designed to reduce net migration to Britain significantly.
David Cameron said in a speech in April that it should be “in the order of tens of thousands each year, not the hundreds of thousands every year that we have seen over the last decade.”
Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, said: “We have cut down on sham marriages, we have brought in a variety of policies which curb the number of people coming into the country and then overstay.
And we will continue to look at how we can further improve the balance between the people who at value coming into the country and those who do not.”
Labour’s record on immigration sparked bitter debates before last year’s election, exemplified by unguarded “bigoted woman” comments during the campaign by Mr Brown, on an open microphone, about Gillian Duffy, a Rochdale grandmother, when she questioned the former prime minister on it.
In an interview this weekend Ms Cooper admitted: "We did get things wrong on immigration. "We should have had the transitional controls on migration from Eastern Europe. We should have introduced the points-based system much earlier.”