Only a small fraction of what parliamentarians discuss in parliament is reported in the national press - particularly when public attention and debate has been so focused on the numbers of immigrants coming to the UK and the government’s controversial programme aimed at reducing net immigration.
Since November 2012 the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration has been tweeting about these ongoing developments under the @APPGMigration account. The main purpose of the twitter account is to highlight the ongoing parliamentary questions and debates happening in parliament, while also keeping news from the group’s activities in the twittersphere. The account has a mixture of followers from cross-party parliamentary figures, national news reporters, academics, trade unions, think tanks, businesses, to private individuals.
So what have been some of the recent developments within parliament on immigration which we’ve picked up on the APPG Migration twitter feed in recent months?
The immigration minister Mark Harper MP in recent months has made a number of statements on asylum, trafficking, the EU and bilateral visa arrangements with third countries. In October 2012, he announced that Syrian nationals could remain in the UK if their visa expires due to the civil unrest in their country. Later that month he outlined the work the UK was doing to tackle criminal gangs in the first annual report of the cross-department work on human trafficking in the UK.
Interestingly, with debate raging on about potential UK repatriation of powers from the European Union, Mark Harper signed the UK up to two further agreements, which include the Eurodac fingerprinting database to determine the origins of asylum claims and readmission agreements between the EU and Turkey to tackle the flow of irregular migration. This is amid the backdrop of Conservative backbench MP Stewart Jackson winning cross-party support in the same month for his EU Freedom of Movement Disapplication Bill.
Furthermore Harper gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union and refused to commit to supporting bilateral aid to Southern EU member-states, however, he committed the UK to the same initiative in January 2013.
In November 2012 Harper tabled a statement making substantial changes to the immigration rules and earlier this year put forward a further statement announcing the UK’s work with EU counterparts on reducing net migration while making another statement on the entrepreneur route of entry to highlight and tackle abuse in the system. He opted the UK out of readmission agreements with Cape Verde and announced that Kuwaiti, Syrian, and Palestinian asylum seekers would be subject to further language testing.
On the last day of February 2013, Harper reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to allowing Syrians who are legally in the UK to extend their stay while the violent conflict continued in their country. And in early March he proposed more ‘user-friendly’ codes of practice for employers seeking to recruit skilled migrant workers.
Harper has also launched a month-long consultation on tackling those who supply false documents to irregular migrants by proposing to make illegal the supply of ‘highly specialist printing equipment’ to possible fraudsters. He continued his fight to secure the UK’s borders against ‘undocumented passengers’ by launching a second consultation on increasing charges on the transport sector (mainly carriers) if they bring in an irregular migrant and waiving any charges or fees if they hand over migrants who are likely to be undocumented.
All of this shows that, behind the vigorous public debate about the levels of immigration to the UK, there are ongoing developments within parliament which also need to be scrutinized and the implications explored by migrants’ rights advocates.
You can follow the APPG on Migration for the latest tweets on questions, statements, and debates from parliament at @APPGMigration.