Balance of Competences review
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has 54 affiliated unions, representing almost six million members, who work in a wide variety of sectors and occupations. The TUC welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Home Office's Call for evidence on the Asylum and Immigration competences.
The TUC has had a long history of opposition to racism and xenophobia, and has consistently highlighted and campaigned against discrimination against black and minority ethnic workers in the British labour market. The TUC believes that a managed migration system, as well as meeting economic and labour market needs, should ensure equal rights for people at work whether they are indigenous or migrant workers.
The TUC feel the UK should participate fully and 'opt-in' to existing European legislation on Immigration and Asylum as well as supporting further legislation to allow migrant workers to contribute better to the economy with decent working and living standards. Immigration is a global phenomenon that affects all European member states. It is thus more effective for migration flows to be managed through EU legislation rather than member states creating patch-work laws to deal with the issue. It also undermines the common approach required of member states and the scope for involvement by social partners in the process.
In this submission, the TUC will argue that the decision of UK Governments to opt out of key EU Directives on Immigration and asylum has negatively impacted the economy, society and workers' rights.
The Call to Evidence document repeatedly makes reference to 'national interest'. In its submission to this Call for Evidence, the TUC interprets 'national interest' as the protection of rights, safety and quality of life of those working and living in the UK. From this perspective our concern with borders and visas is their ability to reduce the rights of those in the workforce and increase the vulnerability of those who move into the UK for work, study or family reasons.
The submission will consider in turn the questions in the Call to Evidence document on which we have particular concerns.
1. What are the advantages or disadvantages of the UK opting out of the border and visa aspects of the Schengen Protocol?
2. If the UK had decided not to opt out of the border and visa aspects of the Schengen Protocol, what impact would this have had on the EU competences? Would this have been in the UK national interest?
As argued above the UK's opt-out of Schengen indicates a failure to coordinate with EU policy. In the TUC's previous submission to BIS' Call to Evidence on the EU Internal Market it was noted that, while the Schengen Protocol only tangentially impact on the European labour market, it does negatively impact on visitors' ability to enter the country which has been widely reported to have cost the country in lost revenue.
3. What are the advantages or disadvantages of the UK deciding not to opt into the EU competences around Legal Migration and returns and admissions?
4. If the UK had used its opt-in differently in the area of legal migration what impact would this have had on the EU competences? Would this have been in the UK national interest?
5. What future challenges do you see in the field of legal migration and what impact might this have on the national interest?
6. Could action be undertaken by the EU in a different way using existing competence that might provide better outcomes for the UK national interest?
The TUC considers the UK's opt out of the recast Reception Conditions Directive (sometimes also known as the 'Long-term Residents Directive')and Qualification Directive as a serious breach of its commitments to International Labour standards in particular ILO Convention 143 Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provision).
The UK's opt out of the recast Qualification Directive on the right to family reunification by third country nationals contravenes Art. 12 of the Convention which asserts the right to family life for migrant workers.
The UK's opt out of the Reception Conditions Directive - which allows those who have been residing legally in an EU member state for 5 years to gain access to work and study opportunities and core social security provision as well as being able to move to other member states -also contravenes the right of migrants to equality of social security in ILO Convention 143 (Art 10). Failing to provide basic support to migrant workers is not only a denial of their rights but also limits their ability to participate in society. The House of Lords European Union Committee cited this as a key reason why the UK should opt-in to the Reception Conditions Directive, stating that 'assimilating the position of long-term third country nationals' rights to that of migrant citizens of the Union, including by enabling participation in the political life of the country, is not only a matter of improving their living and working conditions: it is also a matter of fostering their harmonious integration into society' (2005).
Adding restrictions to the conditions under which migrants can remain in the country will additionally serve to discourage migrant workers who have valuable skills to contribute to the UK economy.
7. What are the advantages or disadvantages of participating in a Common European Asylum System for the UK?
8. If the UK had used its opt-in differently in the area of asylum, what implications would this have had for the EU competences? Would this have been in the UK national interest?
9. What future challenges do you think the EU will face in terms of asylum and what impact might this have on the national interest?
10. Could action be undertaken by the EU in a different way using existing competence that might provide better outcomes for the UK national interest?
The TUC regard that the UK's failure to opt-in to proposals to recast the EU Asylum Reception Conditions (2003/9/EC) and Procedures (2005/85/EC) Directives as undermining the functioning of the Common European Asylum system (CEAS) and the rights of asylum seekers to participate in society. The Court of Justice stated the United Kingdom cannot take advantage of a system to examine asylum applications in the EU without accepted the main principles under which such examination will occur.
The Home Office states in this Call for Evidence document that the UK has not opted into Asylum Procedures Directive due to the fact it 'would diminish the UK's ability to prevent abuse. Yet, the UK receives below the average number of applications for asylum of EU countries, and indeed only a third of the number applying to Germany, indicating that its response is disproportionate and out of step with its regional and political neighbours.
The proposed recast Directive on Asylum Reception Conditions grants the right to work for asylum seekers after six months which the TUC regards as an essential step to ensuring asylum seekers have a means to support themselves and are not forced to depend on state benefits that are set so low as to virtually guarantee a miserable quality of life. Still Here reported this year to the Home Affairs Select Committee that 90% of asylum seekers survived on only one meal a day and 28% were homeless. Failing to allow asylum seekers to work forces them either to face the indignity of such destitution or work in black-market employment where exploitation and abuse is rife.
See TUC response to the Home Office consultation document 'Selective admission: Making migration work for Britain': http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-11199-f0.cfm