Labour launches Points Based System to control immigration

FRFI 203 June / July 2008

The Points Based System (PBS) for Immigration was launched by the Labour government in February 2008 to ensure ‘only the best can work in Britain’. According to the Home Office migrant workers contribute an estimated £6 billion to the country’s wealth. ALYSE THOMPSON reports.

PBS is aimed at non-EU migrants. The five categories are:
Tier 1: Highly Skilled individuals.
Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer in the UK.
Tier 3: Limited numbers of low skilled workers needed to fill temporary labour shortages.
Tier 4: Students
Tier 5: Youth mobility and temporary workers allowed to come to Britain for non-economic objectives.

To qualify for entry clearance or extend their leave to remain in Britain, would-be migrants have to score enough points under various headings. Points are awarded according to criteria such as; Attributes, Maintenance, and English Language Ability.

Under ‘Attributes’ prospective migrants can score points by obtaining a certificate of sponsorship from their future employer. Tier 2 workers must have a job offer to qualify and Tier 3 must have sponsorship from an employer. Under the ‘Maintenance’ section, migrants score points by showing they have funds in a bank account to support their stay in the UK. In all tiers points are awarded for criteria that indicate that the individual is likely to comply with immigration requirements.

Tier 3 (low skilled workers) is designed to replace current schemes such as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme and the Sectors Based Scheme, however the government is currently saying that its introduction will be suspended indefinitely. Presumably, for the time being, there is sufficient cheap labour from the EU to meet the needs of employers who hire low/unskilled, seasonal labour. Tier 3 will only be introduced if there is a shortage of cheap EU labour. Tiers 3 and 5 are only temporary routes and once a migrant is assigned to one of these tiers they cannot switch to another tier. Unskilled migrants are not allowed to bring dependants and Tier 3 is to be applied only to migrants from countries which have signed a ‘returns agreement’ with Britain.

The PBS will have an impact on all migrants to Britain, as it will be a further sanction for discrimination on grounds of race, as preference is given to UK and EU workers, who are predominantly white.

The PBS will mean that migrant workers will be in a very vulnerable position in relation to their employment. Reliance on the sponsor system will mean that the workers are tied to their employers and therefore open to exploitation and abuse. There are many reported cases of domestic workers being held against their will, in appalling working conditions, with their documents withheld and treated like slaves. Now a migrant worker in such a position would be tied to their employer and denied the right to find employment elsewhere. This is surely nothing other than ‘bonded labour’.
However, workers’ rights do not feature on the Labour government’s agenda, which is to ensure that immigration is tightly controlled and used to the maximum benefit for capitalism. This is being achieved by instituting a neatly engineered system which ‘cherry picks’ from poorer countries highly skilled professionals who have cost Britain nothing to train, whilst at the same time ensuring a steady flow of cheap labour on demand. This potential cheap labour force, which waits in the wings in case EU labour becomes insufficient or too costly, consists of unskilled, poor, working class migrants who will be denied any right to stay permanently or to access basic services such as health care and welfare provision.

The PBS is the latest in a plethora of new policies and laws that prevent migration to the UK that is not of economic benefit to the ruling class.  Having not long before changed the name of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate into the Border and Immigration Agency, in April the Home Office changed the name again to the UK Border Agency. The press release accompanying the change is full of talk of ‘toughness’ and ‘policing’, stating that the Agency ‘will protect our borders, control migration for the benefit of the country, prevent border tax fraud, smuggling and immigration crime ... The new 25,000 strong organisation includes more than 9,000 warranted officers operating in local communities, at the border and across 135 countries worldwide, with wide ranging search, seizure and detention powers.’ On 19 May the Border Agency announced plans for a further 1,500 places in immigration detention centres and that it would better its current performance of removing one ‘illegal immigrant... every eight minutes’.

The points-based system of entry and the ruthless attack and expulsion of those not needed by British capitalism go hand in hand and must be opposed.