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EU chiefs want to let in an extra 20 million immigrants from Africa and Asia

UK Daily Mail | September 14, 2007
JAMES SLACK

Britain faces being swamped by a wave of new migrants after EU chiefs announced yesterday they want to let in an extra 20 million workers from Asia and Africa.

Skilled migrants would be granted special 'blue cards' giving them the right to settle in member states, including Britain - if the Government agrees.

Britain has an 'opt-in' to ideas from Brussels it supports and is not bound by EU policy on immigration and asylum.

But a blue card - similar to the green cards issued by the US - could circumvent any opt-out by Britain.

The card would entitle skilled migrants to work in a member state for two years and then move to a second EU country after two or three years.

The workers could apply to stay permanently after five consecutive years in any EU state.

Opponents said that even if Britain opts out of the Commission's proposal, it will not stop many of the migrants coming here eventually.

Once they gain citizenship of another EU country they are entitled to free movement throughout the 27 member states.

Home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said an influx of migrants was needed to plug skills gaps in the EU economy caused by a declining, ageing population.

And he called on member states to stop viewing immigration as a threat and erecting barriers to arrivals. The reforms could more than double the EU's foreign-born population by 2030.

The resident population of non-EU citizens in EU countries was about 18.5million last year - almost 4 per cent of the total population.

The Tories opposed the move last night. Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said: "The fact that under these proposals anyone who has lived for five years anywhere in the EU would be allowed to stay permanently makes a mockery of any Government claim they have the option of opting in to this.

"Since this would be likely to be in addition to already large-scale immigration, the stress placed on housing, public services and community relations in the UK would be enormous.

"We would introduce an explicit annual limit on the numbers of non-EU migrants who can come to the UK which would be set by Parliament.

"It is vital that the Government retains complete control over who is allowed to come to the UK and should not allow the EU to create loopholes or back doors that would make a mockery of a sensible wellbalanced immigration system."

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch UK, said: "This is more of the usual Euro-babble. One size does not fit all. In the UK, 83 per cent of our population growth is down to immigration.

"We need more immigration like a hole in the head."

Mr Frattini told a conference in Lisbon, Portugal, yesterday: "We have to look at immigration as an enrichment and as a inescapable phenomenon of today's world, not as a threat.

"We should take more account of what statistics tell us.

"Eighty-five per cent of unskilled labour goes to the EU and only 5 per cent to the USA, whereas 55 per cent of skilled labour goes to the USA and only 5 per cent to the EU. We have to reverse these figures with a new vision."

Germany has already rejected the idea. Its economy minister, Michael Glos, said it could not accept an influx of foreign job seekers just because it had a temporary skilled labour shortage.

A spokesman for the Home Office said last night: "The European Commission has not yet issued any proposals for a blue card scheme but we would consider any such proposals carefully.

"The UK has the right to opt in to EU measures on immigration and we would only decide to do this if the proposals were consistent with our national approach to managed migration.

"The Government is committed to controlling migration and boosting Britain's economy by bringing in the right skills from around the world.

"We have already established a Highly Skilled Migrants programme that prioritises entry into the UK for those with the right skills.

"We are also managing numbers in the national interest by moving into a tough Australian-style points based migration system for those seeking to work in the UK who come from outside the European Economic Area."

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