British officials demand answers, better data on illegal immigration

British parliament members are demanding to see an annual estimate of how many migrants enter the U.K. illegally -- saying public anxiety has increased in part because of perceived governmental indifference.

A new report published by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee makes more than three dozen different recommendations, including: focus on using actual data to shape immigration policy, enforce existing law around securing the border, give more weight to higher-skilled migrants and affirm that immigration should be a net positive for the economic interests of British citizens.

The United Kingdom’s Home Office, which is responsible for immigration and security, estimated in 2001 there were about 430,000 migrants living illegally in the country, reports the Times of London. A study by the London School of Economics in 2009 takes other factors into account and estimates up to 863,000 migrants living in the country illegally.    

The lack of reliable data on exactly how many people are in the country illegally or continue to enter the country illegally has fostered an atmosphere of fear, according to the report.

“It has allowed anxiety to grow unchecked and has been perceived as the Government showing indifference toward an issue of high public interest,” the report states.


In addition, while noting that there are a range of views on what England’s migration policy should be post-Brexit, the report demands more accountability, as well as an annual migration report and debate.

“We call on the Government to be more proactive in challenging myths and inaccuracies about immigration and the asylum system, including by publishing more factual information about the costs and benefits of immigration at local and national levels,” the report states.

UK Border Force staff escort one of a group of unaccompanied minors from the Jungle migrant camp in Calais as they arrive at an immigration centre in Croydon, south London, Britain October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls  - LR1ECAI0W03LA

U.K. Border Force staff escort one of a group of unaccompanied minors from the Jungle migrant camp in Calais as they arrive at an immigration center in Croydon, south London, Britain, Oct. 18, 2016  (Reuters)

The report also calls for better criminal and security checks of anyone trying to enter the U.K.

“We recommend the Home Office reviews cross-agency practices for removing foreign national offenders, including where recent arrivals have received custodial sentences and are eligible for removal,” the report stated.

Yvette Cooper, the committee chairwoman, told the Times of London that most people “want to know the system is under control, that people are contributing to this country and that communities and public services are benefiting.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the U.K.’s Home Office said net migration to the country has fallen over the last year.

“We are making it harder than ever before for those with no right to be here to remain in the U.K.,” the spokesman told the BBC. “However, we also believe that more analysis of the scale and nature of the problem of illegal immigration is needed in order to develop appropriate policy responses and reassure the public that the issue is being addressed seriously.”

In addition, the report concludes with a call for more investment in housing and public services, better integration of migrants and more sensitivity about how local communities will react to demographic shifts.

"Integration is immensely important but is not embedded in immigration policy," the report states. "Immigration policy should be underpinned by a strategy to help communities faced with rapid population change, and should be responsive to local and regional issues."

Christopher Carbone is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.