Immigration is a hugely emotive subject, so it is important to cut through the extremes of the debate and approach the subject sensibly and reasonably. Immigrants make a huge contribution to Britain. We recognise that – and we welcome it. But for too long, immigration has been too high. It has placed real pressures on communities up and down the country.
Controlling immigration and bringing it down is of vital importance to the future of our country. We made a clear commitment to the British people that we would aim to reduce net migration to the levels we saw in the 1980s and 1990s. Now we are in government, we are taking action simultaneously to control all the main routes of entry – work, family, education.
We are clamping down on illegal immigration. And we are getting to grips with the asylum system too. Britain will always be open to the best and brightest from around the world and those fleeing persecution. But with us, our borders will be under control and immigration will be at levels our country can manage.
No ifs. No buts. That’s a promise we made to the British people. And it’s a promise we are keeping.
Putting an end to out-of-control immigration.
The bigger picture
• Our annual limit on non-EU economic migration will not only help reduce immigration to sustainable levels but will protect those businesses and institutions that are vital to our economy. The new system was designed in consultation with business. Employers should look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country.
• A properly controlled and regulated student visa system is a crucial component of our policy to reduce and control net migration. That is why we have radically reformed student visas to weed out abuse and tackle bogus colleges. And our reforms are starting to take effect: in the year to June 2012, there was a thirty per cent decrease in the number of student visas issued compared to the year to June 2011.
• We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution but a family life must not be established here at the taxpayer's expense. To play a full part in British life, family migrants must be able to integrate – that means they must speak our language and pay their way. This is fair to applicants, but also fair to the public.
• The Government's priority is the security of the UK border. The right checks need to be carried out to control immigration, protect against terrorism and tackle crime. We are maintaining thorough border checks. And despite those robust checks, the vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly.