London benefits from migration, Migrationwork’s Richard Stanton and Sue Lukes wrote in London’s Evening Standard yesterday. But to realise its full potential, they argue, the right conditions are needed, not the draconian measures of the Government’s new Immigration Bill:
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Immigration drives the development of great cities. The ONS profile confirms how the capital benefits from its increase in foreign-born residents, now almost four in ten of all Londoners. Immigration brings a versatile labour force, and a young population whose children leave London schools with impressively better results than students elsewhere.
But to realise the potential of migration, London needs the right conditions. That means enforcing a decent minimum wage to protect all low-paid employees. Reviving more free English language tuition for those who can’t afford it – short-term investment for future gain. And getting serious about London’s housing crisis. With delivery of new affordable homes now slipping below the Mayor’s modest target, investment in London housing has to be restored.
Meanwhile London’s administration has redefined affordability as 80% of market rents, in line with government. Besides being far from affordable, this renders more tenants vulnerable to the £500 per week benefits cap. Tenants are having their benefits cut because rents are so high, not just in the private sector, but even in social housing.
Migrants are typically at the sharp end of this crisis. 85-95% rent privately when they arrive and remain in rented accommodation, often exploited by landlords and agents, as well as employers. They and their children have less chance to integrate as London citizens if stuck in overcrowded housing where lack of long-term rights exposes them to unfair practice by landlords. Last week the BBC revealed how London accommodation agencies already discriminate on race grounds. The government’s draconian Immigration Bill will make matters worse, requiring landlords to check immigration status of all tenants.
In 2002 London’s then Mayor Ken Livingstone warned during the passage of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill: ‘In today’s globalised world, asylum and immigration policy focused just on control, deterrence and cutting costs will fail – squandering an historic opportunity.’ Will Boris give Mrs May this message about her new Bill?