One step forward, two steps back:evaluating the institutions of British immigration policymaking

Consterdine, Erica (2013) One step forward, two steps back:evaluating the institutions of British immigration policymaking. Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) . Institute for Public Policy Research.

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Why does the delivery of UK immigration policy seem to go so wrong, so often? This paper draws on empirical findings1 from qualitative research (51 stakeholder interviews, document analysis, archive analysis) and the author’s experience working in the Home Office.2 It explores four key issues: • A monopoly on policymaking: The multifaceted impacts of immigration mean that almost every government department has an interest in immigration policy, which contrasts with the Home Office’s monopoly on immigration policy. To have a successful and dynamic immigration policy, more cross-government coordination and input is needed. • A culture of caution: The Home Office faces political and popular pressures like no other department, due to the nature of the policy issues that fall within its remit, such as drugs, crime and counterterrorism. In response, the department has developed an organisational ‘culture of caution’, which is reflected in a defensive and enforcement- driven immigration policy. • Structure and communication: The Home Office and the UK Border Agency developed into two separate organisations, operating in different ways and exchanging relatively sparse communication. As a result, a gap has opened up between policymaking and implementation. The immigration system needs a clearer organisational structure and better communication between policymakers and the frontline. • Evidence versus policy: The previous Labour government commissioned a great deal of research into immigration. However, the findings were hard to translate into policy. Conversely, under the current administration too much officially commissioned research evidence is politically driven. While recognising the political constraints, research and evidence should be used to achieve a more effective and accountable immigration policy. This would have the effect of ensuring that if political trade-offs against the evidence are made then the policymaking process is at least transparent. The UK needs better immigration institutions because of – not in spite of – the toxic politics of immigration. Without an effective institutional framework, immigration policy and politics in the UK seem destined to remain negative and reactive.

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22 Oct 2019 14:55
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12 Sep 2023 03:48