Tony Blair’s Legacy on Immigration
The Migration Information Source Takes a First Look
at a Ten-Year Transformation
WASHINGTON -- As British Prime Minister Tony Blair resigns today, he leaves behind a fundamentally reshaped immigration system. In fact, the number of immigration-related laws and policies instituted during his ten-year tenure surpasses that of every other social policy area.
A new article from the Migration Information Source by William Somerville provides a first analysis of the significance of immigration policies under Prime Minister Blair and his Labour Party in a decade when annual net immigration flows to the UK nearly quadrupled.
Most significant, Somerville writes, was the drastic policy shift toward proactive management of migration for economic benefit, including attracting more high-skilled workers and foreign students, as well as allowing nationals from the Eastern European EU states to work in the UK from the day their countries joined the EU in 2004. However, not all migrants have been welcomed. Increased restrictions on asylum seekers range from forced dispersal in the UK to Prime Minister Blair’s stated goal of a “tipping point,” in which the number of failed asylum seekers deported each month should exceed those applying.
Part of Prime Minister Blair’s historical legacy will be his response to terrorist attacks that stunned the world. His development of a tough security framework, including the use of biometric technology, lays the groundwork for future efforts to discourage terrorism and unauthorized immigration in the coming decades.
Also critical in the years ahead will be the effects of major institutional restructuring. This includes the establishment of the Border and Immigration Agency and the breakup of the UK Home Office into two separate departments: a Ministry of Justice, and a new, streamlined Home Office focused on crime, immigration, and terrorism.
"No area of social policy has changed more than immigration in ten years of New Labour," said Somerville, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. "For the first time, policy has looked forward, not back, and Tony Blair has cemented a political agreement on immigration likely to last a generation."