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UK immigration system needs urgent overhaul, say MPs and charities

Human rights abuses, immigration scandals and poor decision-making have left the immigration system in need of urgent reform, according to a new Fabian Society report.


Press release

Open and Ethical identifies how, in the wake of the Windrush scandal, the UK’s migration and asylum systems are failing migrants, asylum seekers and the wider public. The government’s recent immigration white paper represented a missed opportunity to make crucial changes.

In this collection of essays edited by Kate Green MP and Mike Buckley, political voices from across the spectrum join policymakers and charities in calling for the UK’s broken system to be fixed and for public confidence to be rebuilt.

Open and Ethical says that getting immigration policy right will be essential for both the economy and a good of society in the years ahead. It sets out dozens of practical ways to make immigration and asylum fairer and more transparent.

The report’s authors include Labour MP David Lammy, SNP MP Stuart McDonald, Marvin Rees (Labour mayor of Bristol), Jill Rutter (British Future), Conservative peer Baroness Philippa Stroud (Legatum Institute) and Ryan Shorthouse of the centre-right think tank Bright Blue.

Key recommendations include:

  • David Lammy MP proposes regularising the status of undocumented migrants, allowing them to pay income tax, national insurance and to live safely, ending indefinite detention and immigration income requirements.
  • Hannah Cooper (Refugee Action) argues that the right to asylum, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should be at the heart of the UK system and that fair processes, access to support, compassion and helping people to rebuild their lives are key to upholding this.
  • Kate Green MP and Mike Buckley call for the Labour party to reshape the national narrative around immigration and integration, and make the positive case for immigration. They recommend prioritising policies that promote integration, enrich our country, and have justice and wellbeing at their heart.
  • Jill Rutter recommends that all local authorities develop a strategic plan to promote integration, involving other public bodies, business, civic society and the public in this process.
  • Marvin Rees calls for an expansion of the devolution agenda and for the left to look towards the UK’s cities to build an inclusive politics of migration.


David Lammy MP said:

“Time and time again, in the aftermath of the Windrush scandal, we have been met with the same refrain from government ministers: the detention and deportation of ethnic minority British citizens happened as a result of administrative error. I hope to use the lessons from Windrush to recommend reforms which would transform our immigration system, making it fair, humane and respectful of the dignity of the human beings caught up in the bureaucratic struggle of their lives.”

Hannah Cooper, policy and research manager, Refugee Action, said:

“People enter the asylum system with little knowledge of what to expect. They receive limited information on their rights and entitlements, and – with the exception of a few leaflets that are handed to them, in a language they may not understand – no information about the process itself. Ensuring that compassion and a culture of protection are at the heart of the UK’s asylum system would allow for better protection of the most vulnerable.”

Kate Green MP and Mike Buckley said:

“Labour’s challenge, both now as the Brexit saga continues, and beyond as the party aims to form the next government, is not only to develop a coherent and viable immigration and integration policy programme, but also to reshape a national narrative that has for too long been dominated by the right. We suggest three priorities now: policies to promote integration, policies that help enrich our country, and policies that have justice and wellbeing at their heart.”

Jill Rutter, director of strategy and relationships at British Future, said:

“The government’s immigration white paper is a missed opportunity in that few of its proposals take the UK towards a fair system that both meets economic needs and has public support. The government should look at a system that has confidence-building as an explicit aim. A three-year plan for migration, reviewed every year in parliament on an annual migration day, should replace the net migration target.”



  1. Contact: Rabyah Khan, media and communications manager at the Fabian Society
    0207 227 4906 | 07888861096 |
  2. Open and Ethical is available here.
  3. Open and Ethical has been published with support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
  4. This report represents not the collective views of the Fabian Society but only the views of the individual authors.
  5. Kate Green MP (report editor) is available for interview.
  6. The full list of contributors to the report is: Mike Buckley, The Right Reverend Paul Butler, Hannah Cooper, Kate Green MP, David Lammy MP, Sarah Lyall, Stuart McDonald MP, Marvin Rees, Ian Robinson, Jill Rutter, Matthew Ryder, Ryan Shorthouse, Peter Starkings, Philippa Stroud.
  7. The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest political think tank. Founded in 1884, the Society is at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left. The society is alone among think tanks in being a democratically-constituted membership organisation, with over 7,000 members. It is constitutionally affiliated to the Labour party.
  8. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is one of the largest grant-making foundations in the UK. The foundation’s mission is to help people overcome disadvantage and lack of opportunity, so that they can realise their potential and enjoy fulfilling and creative lives.

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