Managing migration for Britain is one of the government’s top priorities and is now firmly embedded in UK foreign policy.
The global environment is challenging: there are 200m migrants worldwide, and the number is increasing. The UK, as an open, tolerant and prosperous nation, is at the leading edge of this change.
Our aim is to make migration work for Britain; ensuring that our borders are secure and that migration is managed in accordance with the UK’s needs.
Working in close partnership with UK Borders Agency (UKBA), the FCO and its network of 261 posts overseas helps deliver government policy in three key areas:
We want to facilitate legitimate travel and entry to the UK, welcoming those who bring skills, industry and creativity to our economy and society. But we also need to take a firm line with those who might seek to come here illegally or cause harm.
Our aim is to maintain public confidence in the integrity of our immigration and asylum systems, through consistent and fair application of the rules. When people come to the UK illegally, overstay, or make asylum claims that fail, they must return, or be returned, to their country of origin.
Migration is a key component of the UK’s bilateral and multilateral relationships. Over the last year, the FCO has worked cooperatively with other governments, EU member states, the European Commission, the UN and other international partners.
The FCO’s contribution to this agenda is significant ranging from hosting the UK Border Agency’s visa services operations overseas to negotiating returns agreements and supporting wider migration negotiations at EU and international level.
Managed migration brings benefits to the UK, to migrants and to their countries of origin (not just remittances but greater wealth, enhanced skills and ability to create wealth when they return home). We seek to attract the people we need while being sensitive to the impact of pulling in skilled migrants from economically vulnerable source countries.
In February 2008 the Points Based System (PBS) was introduced, transforming the way we manage the immigration of people coming to the UK to work or study. It rationalises the previous system of 80 routes into five categories, or “tiers”. Points are awarded on workers’ skills to reflect aptitude, experience, age and also the demand for those skills in any given sector, to allow the UK to respond flexibly to changes in the labour market. Employers and sponsors play a crucial part in making sure the system is not abused. More detailed guidance on the PBS can be found on the UK Border Agency website.
We remain committed to meeting our international obligations to provide a safe haven for genuine refugees. We work to strengthen protection around the world for those who need it. In 2008 the UK contributed approximately £27 million to the UNHCR making us the seventh largest bilateral donor.
Returning, resettling and reintegrating people to their country of origin
When people come to the UK illegally, overstay, or make asylum claims which fail, they must return, or be returned, to their country of origin in as dignified and sustainable way as possible. We work closely with UK Borders Agency to improve international co-operation and to find ways of securing the quick return of those who have no legal right to remain in the UK.
Our preference is for people to return voluntary and to be reintegrated and resettled in their home country. We facilitate voluntary return through the International Organization for Migration. However, where people refuse to leave voluntarily we seek to enforce their removal. All removal decisions are assessed carefully to ensure that we are complying with our international human rights commitments. We expect other governments to take back their nationals when they are illegally in the UK.
Returning foreign national prisoners is a major cross-Government priority. In cooperation with foreign governments, we returned over 5,000 prisoners to their country of origin in 2008, exceeding the annual target set by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and representing a 25% increase on the figure for 2007. The Government's target is to return over 5,800 in 2009.
The UK wants to combine its efforts with those of overseas governments to make sure everyone who is returned is given the best chance of reintegration as quickly and easily as possible – making their return a successful one for all concerned. The Returns and Reintegration Fund was set up to enable us to support countries which face the biggest challenges in accepting back their returnees and help individuals settle into their new lives.
The fund is managed jointly by the FCO, UK Borders Agency, Department for International Development and Ministry of Justice. It provides support for a range of projects including capacity building, technical advice and training for governments. And for returnees - training and vocational skills, business start up advice and short term accommodation/reception facilities.
List and summaries of the key documents that form the UK's migration policy.