Immigration to Britain must be cut - May

2015-10-06 22:04
Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May. (AP)

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May. (AP)

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London - High immigration to Britain makes it "impossible to build a cohesive society" and must be cut through reductions in the number of asylum seekers and EU migrants, Home Secretary Theresa May said on Tuesday.

Welfare rules for migrants within the European Union must change to reduce the "unsustainable" numbers moving to Britain, May said in a wide-ranging speech to the ruling Conservative Party's annual conference.

She backed Prime Minister David Cameron's push to limit EU migrants' access to welfare benefits, part of a package of renegotiations that Cameron has promised before holding an in-out referendum on Britain's EU membership by the end of 2017.

Before May's speech, Cameron told BBC Radio 4 that integrating new arrivals was "more difficult if you have excessive levels of migration".

He backed May's argument that to create an "integrated, successful society you have to make sure there are enough school places and that hospitals aren't overcrowded".

May promised a new system for handling asylum requests "quickly and fairly" next year, and she again rejected calls for a European immigration and asylum policy.

Britain must "fulfil our moral duty to help people in desperate need",  but must also "have an immigration system that allows us to control who comes to our country", May said.

"Because when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it's impossible to build a cohesive society," she said, pointing to pressure on jobs, schools, hospitals, housing and transport.

Politicians and human rights groups have criticised Cameron's refusal to accept any of the tens of thousands of refugees stranded in Europe, and his pledge to resettle only 20 000 Syrian refugees over five years.

May hailed Cameron's initiative as "a decision not imposed on us by Europe, but a decision taken by Britain, an independent sovereign country".

The best way to help refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries was "by working with the vast numbers who remain in the region", she said.

The government's new asylum system will replace a current one that favours people "who are young enough, fit enough, and have the resources to get to Britain", May said.

She said the system should reject "those who claim asylum after abusing the visa system or having travelled to get here through safe countries" and distinguish between "economic migrants and genuine refugees".

Maurice Wren, head of the UK Refugee Council said May's plans were "thoroughly chilling", accusing her of a "bitter attack on the fundamental principle enshrined in international law that people fleeing persecution should be able to claim asylum in Britain".

"Everyone would like to see the number of asylum claims in Britain go down: but only because that would mean the world had become a safer, more peaceful place," Wren said.

"As it stands, the home secretary's ambitions are simply out of step with reality: the world is facing one of the worst refugee crises we've ever seen," he said.

Read more on:    uk  |  migrants

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