The Houses of Parliament are seen through snow covered trees in London
The Houses of Parliament are seen through snow covered trees in London REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

The seven-month-old coalition government's ongoing campaign to limit immigration into the United Kingdom has hit a setback. The High Court in London on Friday ruled that the government's limitation on immigrants entering the UK was illegal, giving relief to those who would be affected by this. Immigration Minister Damian Green, however, asserted that ruling, which was prompted by the observation that home secretary Theresa May had tried to avoid the involvement of parliament by introducing the rules, is about process not policy.

The Court's ruling rests on a technicality, we will set this right in the next few days to ensure we can continue to operate an interim limit, Green is quoted as saying in British media reports, before asserting that the government remains firmly committed to reducing net migration to the tens of thousands.

Mr Green, who plans to lay the changes to the immigration rules before Parliament on Tuesday to reinstate the limit, reportedly told MPs, The changes will set out the details the court required. This will enable us to reinstate the interim limits on a clear legal basis.

Cutting down on immigration by tens of thousands each year was a Conservative election pledge and has taken the centre stage ever since the elections.

When 'white minority' prediction came in...

Public disquiet at the scale of immigration into Britain featured strongly in the last general election campaign, and almost certainly helped to decide its outcome, notes David Coleman, Professor of Demography at the Oxford University, in his report titled 'When Britain Becomes 'Majority Minority''.

Professor Coleman hit the headlines in November due to his prediction that white Britons would turn into a minority by year 2066.

A condensed version of his analysis paper published in 'Population and Development Review' (The Population Council, New York) in September has been published in the December issue of the monthly journal 'Prospect', a centre-left journal of political and current affairs.

In this report, the professor establishes, If current immigration and fertility levels continue, white Britons will soon be in a minority in the UK-within the lifespan of most young adults alive today.

The central argument and observation of the report states, In the first, 'standard' projection, overall net immigration is kept to the long-term level (180,000 per year) assumed in the ONS principal projection. Net emigration of 'white British' is assumed to be 74,000 annually in the long term, net immigration of all minorities together, 254,000. Migration will not, of course, remain constant, but it is the simplest assumption.

On those assumptions the 'white British' population would decline to 45m (59 per cent of the total) by 2051, the 'other white' would increase to 7m (10 per cent) and the non-white populations to 24m (31 per cent). Were the assumptions to hold, the 'white British' population of Britain would become the minority after about 2066. The US, by comparison, is now about 65 per cent white (non-Hispanic) and that group is projected to fall to 50 per cent by 2045.

This prediction that seeped into the media last month especially made news as it came at a time when Home Secretary Theresa May was expected to receive a report from the Migration Advisory Committee on what cap she should impose on migrant workers for the coming year. Days after the 'white minority' reports hit the global media, the United Kingdom unveiled new immigration and visa cap, included very tight restrictions bound to hit non-EU migrants, especially under the Tier I and Tier II of the points based system.

Starting from April 2011, the immigration cap for non-European Economic Area (EEA) workers will be 21,700, which is about 6,300 lower than the 2009 limit. The Tier 1 visa category, previously known as the 'highly skilled worker' visas, will turn into 'exceptional talent' visas - available only to entrepreneurs, investors, artists, academics, scientists and other people of exceptional talent. The new limit on the 'exceptional talent' visas is 1,000 versus the 2009 cap of 14,000.

Britain should tighten its immigration policy: Prof Coleman

Yes, I feel strongly that the UK should tighten its migration policy. The early consensus on restriction was changed by the Blair government after 1997 and migration of most kinds was greatly increased as a consequence. That has promoted a considerable increase in population growth, with the prospect, according to the official projections noted above, of an increase in 16 million people by mid century and much more later if that migration level is allowed to persist, Professor Coleman said in an e-mail interview. There are no benefits in such growth and numerous problems.

He, however, insists that he in no way intended to influence the migration cap with his report.

They are unconnected. I do not mention the cap in my paper, which was first written by January, scheduled to appear in June but was delayed, he clarified in an e-mailed reply.

Effects of Excessive Immigration

Immigration has turned into a highly charged political issue and has led to social tensions. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to reduce immigration, despite warnings from the business sector that limiting migration could drive up wage costs and hurt an economy that has just begun recovering from the recession.

While economy is one aspect that is widely predicted to take hit from the tightening of immigration norms, the demographics Professor elaborated on the negative implications of excessive immigration.

The effects of the projections on the economic, political and religious life of the country would of course vary greatly according which one of the projections is considered, he said.

The religious consequences would be substantial, with very large increases in the population of Muslim and Hindu ancestry in particular, the Professor observed.

If the current high level of observance inter-generational inheritance of faith in those populations continues, that would lead to important shifts in national identity values and attitudes; a substantial change from the present. The political and social changes would depend very much on the level of integration or assimilation in the population, as I discuss in the papers, he informed.

Speaking on the implications beyond demography, Professor Coleman said that if the immigration is not contained and is allowed to go on in the current rate, the very structure of the society will also fall under risk.

It would not just depend on demography. Some fear the fragmentation of society, the weakening of cohesion and solidarity especially in relation to, for example, the welfare state. I point out that some feel that these fears are not justified and that there is merit in ethnic and religious diversity, he explained.

The economic consequences, he asserted, would arise mostly from the increase in overall population, not its ethnic composition.