Keith Vaz warns against UK immigration `arms race`
London: One of Britain`s most prominent Indian-origin MPs Keith Vaz has warned the government against an immigration "arms race" that would create tougher policies.
The chairman of the influential House of Commons` Home Affairs Committee called on all major political parties to work together on the issue to keep "fringe parties" in check.
"What is needed is not an arms race among our party leaders on immigration policy but a new consensus... Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband should now sit down together and talk about this issue.
By doing this they will deny fringe parties the opportunity to fill the vacuum and demonstrate to the British people they want to engage purposefully and productively in addressing one of the most challenging issues that our nation faces," the senior Labour MP wrote in the `Sunday Express` today.
Vaz also stressed on the urgent need to get realistic estimates on the much-talked-about influx of Romanians and Bulgarians once curbs are lifted at the end of this year.
"Research needs to be commissioned immediately, and we need to start a dialogue with the Romanian and Bulgarian governments. We still do not know how many times Mrs May (UK home secretary Theresa May) has visited Bucharest or Sofia to discuss the problem: she refuses to answer parliamentary questions about it," he said in the article titled `Let`s unite on immigration`.
Vaz also welcomed the recently announced break-up of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which will once again be placed under direct ministerial control at the Home Office as an "important first step".
"The Home Affairs Committee`s last report on the UKBA was a devastating indictment of a management that failed to administer the ?1-billion budget skillfully and responsibly and whose leaders had, over the years, misled Parliament. It is now essential that abolishing the UKBA and bringing it under the control of ministers does not become just a re-branding exercise," he added.
The Conservative-led coalition government has been toughening its stance on immigration in recent weeks, seen as a blatant attempt to counter-balance the growing popularity of right-wing parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Prime Minister David Cameron has already announced that immigrant families will be kept off council house waiting lists in England for at least two years.
Councils are to have to introduce a residency test to stop immigrants gaining immediate access.
And Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for cash deposits of more than 1,000 pounds for some migrants, saying the amount would be paid by visa applicants from "high risk" countries and repaid when they leave the UK.
"First Ed Miliband (Labour party leader) announced a mea culpa for Labour`s mistakes. Then Nick Clegg did a U-turn on an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Finally, last Monday David Cameron proposed benefit changes for migrants. Policy changes, though welcome, are futile unless the organisation in charge is robust," Vaz warned.
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