The Labour party would fund 1,000 new UK border guards by introducing a £10 levy on all travellers from countries which have a visa waiver agreement with the UK, allowing them to be fast tracked through customs. The plan was unveiled by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper in a speech delivered in central London, in which Ms Cooper said “It isn’t racist to be worried about immigration or to call for immigration reform.”
The new policy is being floated as part of Labour’s attempt to toughen up their stance on immigration, in light of the rising popularity of the UK Independence Party, which is calling for an end to open borders. But Ukip have branded the policy a “huge embarrassment for Labour”.
The Conservatives also slated the idea, claiming that the funds raised would only pay for 59 new border staff, not the 1,000 being touted, accusing the Labour party of being “especially dishonest”, the BBC has reported.
In her speech, Cooper criticised the current government’s record on immigration saying “enforcement has got worse in the last five years. Under [Home Secretary] Theresa May, basic checks are just not being done, and that is undermining confidence in the whole system.
“The number of people stopped and turned away at the border has halved. A smaller proportion of people absconding at the border are being found. And we recently discovered 175,000 failed asylum seekers may not be removed because the Department has ‘limited resources’.”
She also accused the government of losing a further 50,000 failed asylum seekers and of failing to sort out the “serious and growing problem” at the border in Calais, leading to “awful cases of young men camping by the roadside, then leaping onto the wheel arches of passing lorries, only to be crushed and killed”. But she said that it was right to say that being within the EU was “immensely important for Britain’s future and we must stay in Europe”.
Cooper outlined new plans which would see 5.5million travellers a year from countries such as the US, Australia and Canada pay a £10 levy to be fast tracked into the country. She said that the extra cash raised would allow 1,000 new staff to be employed, improving visitors’ experience and increasing the speed of passport checks. There are currently between 7,000 and 8,000 frontline staff on the UK borders.
Labour plan to bring in the extra fast tracking capacity by rolling out a scheme introduced earlier this year for all passport holders from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman who enter the UK on a visa-free stay for up to six months. All visa waver arrangements would need to be transferred to the electronic system.
However, the Conservative party criticised the plan, saying that the extra IT costs would swallow up any fees gained by the move. Theresa May commented “Even before Yvette Cooper’s speech, this announcement has unravelled completely.
“Labour are pretending they can hire 1,000 more immigration staff when their funding model would raise enough money for only 59 new staff members. And as their secret spending review contains plans to cut the Home Office budget, they are being especially dishonest.
“And what’s more, by relaxing the government’s immigration reforms, Labour would take Britain backwards and risk a surge in both legal and illegal immigration.
“This disastrous policy launch shows Labour aren’t remotely ready for the responsibility of government.”
But Labour hit back, insisting that it would introduce a new immigration bill within months if it won next May’s general election. Ms Cooper conceded that her party had not done enough in the past to mitigate the impact of immigration on low-skilled workers, but said that her party would bring back finger printing of immigrants to count them out of the country, as well as in. However, she has defended the “fair movement” of people within the EU, saying that Labour would mitigate for large migration flows by calling for an EU Migrant Impact Fund to pay for extra school places, medical provisions and housing in areas impacted by immigration.
It is an approach that drew scathing critiscism from Ukip, who argue that Britain can have no real control of her borders until she exits the European Union.
Speaking to Breitbart London, Ukip’s spokesman on migration Steven Woolfe said “Labour’s announcement is a huge embarrassment for the party and shows they really have no clue with regard to Britain’s borders. Charging people from friendly and Commonwealth countries to enter the UK on visa waivers is plain discriminatory when we have no such ability to do the same with EU member states.
“It is, much like many recent Tory announcements, a ploy to try and claw back credibility on immigration which they lost over a 13 year period of a Labour government. It also shows what they believe in: further entrenching us in a shrinking Eurozone while sticking two fingers up at the prosperous globe.”