Saturday 25 March 2017

UK minister sparks fierce backlash after attack on migrants

Ms May's speech was widely perceived as a pitch to be the right-wing choice to replace David Cameron in an eventual succession battle
Ms May's speech was widely perceived as a pitch to be the right-wing choice to replace David Cameron in an eventual succession battle

Joe Churcher

British Home Secretary Theresa May faced an angry backlash from business leaders, charities and political opponents as she announced a sharp tightening of rules for asylum and immigration.

In a controversial speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Ms May declared the UK "does not need" large numbers of foreign arrivals, warning they are putting British workers out of a job, forcing down wages and making it impossible to create a "cohesive society".

But the Institute of Directors (IoD) accused her of "vilifying" migrants for party political reasons, and branded her claims about their impact on the economy as "nonsense".

Ms May's speech was widely perceived as a pitch to be the right-wing choice to replace David Cameron in an eventual succession battle, on a day when London mayor Boris Johnson reasserted his position as the darling of the party's one-nation wing with a well-received and joke-packed address.

Urging party members to "put Britain first", the Home Secretary said she would act to reduce the numbers gaining asylum after arriving in the UK and to make sure overseas students left the country after their courses.

But the IoD accused her of jeopardising Britain's economic recovery with "irresponsible rhetoric and pandering to anti-immigration sentiment".

Director General Simon Walker said: "It is yet another example of the Home Secretary turning away the world's best and brightest.

"The myth of the job-stealing immigrant is nonsense. Immigrants do not steal jobs, they help fill vital skill shortages and, in doing so, create demand and more jobs."

Mr Walker called on political leaders to "stop vilifying migrants and acknowledge the hugely important contribution they make to this country's economy".

In a hardening of Tory rhetoric, Ms May took on claims that the UK is a country of immigrants, instead arguing it has had "remarkable population stability" until recently.

Her proposals for asylum mark a major departure from the system Britain uses to offer refuge for those fleeing conflict and persecution around the world and appear to be aimed at reducing the numbers coming to the country

They include major reforms such as deporting refugees if their home countries become safe by the time their temporary leave to remain in Britain ends, in a process described by Ms May as "safe return reviews".

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused Mrs May of "encouraging division and hatred", while Labour's shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said she had forgotten her own advice that the Tories should stop being "the nasty party".

Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: "The Home Secretary's clear intention to close Britain's border to refugees fleeing for their lives is thoroughly chilling."

Irish Independent

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