EU controls on immigration


In the early years after the 2004 EU enlargement, incoming labour from central Europe was largely seen as complementary to the British workforce, not in competition. The UK benefited as this incoming labour provided essential services in hard-to-fill sectors, especially in the skilled trade sector. Some towns, like Crewe, where there were a very high number of Poles, were economically re-invigorated.

In early 2009 wildcat strikes swept through power stations and refineries in the UK. Workers were protesting that foreign contractors were being employed when skilled manual workers were out of work, and paid less than British workers. Under the Posted Workers Directive these Italian and Portuguese workers had a legal right to be here. And there were examples of British workers working in Italy under similar arrangements. Strikers paraded placards with the words “British jobs for British workers”.

In the early summer of 2009 United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)set up an office in Calais to advise the hundreds of migrants camped in makeshift and unsanitary conditions around the town on the asylum system in France and to debunk the myth of a “British El Dorado”. On the streets of the UK many failed asylum seekers and those awaiting the result of their appeal, unable to work, live in destitution rather than return to their countries of origin.

Student Factsheet 4

Whole class discussion


  1. Do we have a right to live anywhere in the world that suits us? If not why not ?
  2. If not what limits should countries set on the number of refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers it will accept ? How would you set limits ?
  3. Would you base them on country of origin / religious affiliation / skin colour / skills they can offer ?
  4. If you set such limits might it be in contravention of international agreements such as United Nations Agreement on Human Rights/ European Convention on Human Rights ?
  5. Is a country justified in distributing immigrants across its geography rather than letting them group together in a few places ?

Role Play

Factsheet 1 and Factsheet 4 can be used with this exercise

A screening interview at a port of entry - an immigration control officer interviews a would-be asylum seeker

This could be conducted a number of ways: teacher-led with class asking the questions; in small groups with one person being interviewed; in pairs.

A whole class discussion could deal with the type of questions to be asked (as below), the documentary evidence sought and the questioning techniques to be used (aggressive, friendly, etc).

The interviewee could be provided with an outline narrative, actual (anonymous) or fictitious, that the interviewee would have to fill out.

At the end of the interview the class should vote on/ discuss whether asylum should be granted.

The interview (which can be taped) needs to establish: identity, nationality, travel route to UK, reason why they are fleeing persecution in their own country. The officer’s questions seek to assess the credibility of the interviewee and allow her or him the status of asylum seeker.


This house believes this country should impose tighter controls on immigration.


  • All immigrants to take language test before being admitted
  • A points system as in Australia to be applied
  • Access to benefits to be strictly limited

Class divided into two groups, one for the motion, the other against.

Groups discuss the benefits and disadvantages of immigration:

1 Providing labour and key skills
2 Cultural enrichment
3 Asylum for refugees
1 Taking other people’s jobs
2 Community tension
3 Depriving country of origin of key skills

Choose proposer & seconder, opposer & seconder.

Have participation from other members of the class.

Citizenship and Myth busting

  1. Do you know what kind of tests aspiring new citizens are required to pass ?
  2. In your discussions and reading have you found evidence that runs counter to any of the myths that surround the topic of migrant workers and asylum seekers ?
  3. Are they a drain on public funds ?
  4. Are there no controls over who comes in ?
  5. Do we count how many people leave the UK ?
  6. Do migrants and asylum seekers get priority for social housing ?
  7. How do stories about migrants get covered in The Mail and/or The Guardian ?

Check the facts (Fact Sheet 4)

Final group discussions

From what you have learnt, in groups arrive at a solution to immigration control - bearing in mind:

  1. free movement of labour
  2. human rights
  3. economic nationalism
  4. present government policy

The other topics