Islanders know that Jersey has experienced rapid population growth in recent years.
The population at the end of 2019 was up more than 20% on the 2001 figure, and this growth in population has led to some understandable tensions across our community.
While an increasing population does have positive aspects, including the growth of a successful economy which is attractive to migrant workers and incoming businesses, it also brings pressures and challenges.
Challenges on our housing, our traffic, our services, and our natural environment.
In 2018, the States Assembly endorsed the Common Strategic Policy aim 'to reduce Jersey's reliance on inward migration'.
As the Chief Minister has said, the Control of Housing and Work Law manages who can access work and housing in Jersey. That system lacks effective controls and we do not have an adequate picture of the individuals moving to the Island, or the value they contribute, both economically and socially.
This lack of clear data prevents us from making informed decisions about the granting of permissions, preventing us from dealing with migration in a holistic, strategic way. Without the controls and the data, we cannot have an effective population policy, which is an overarching aim of the Council of Ministers.
The Migration Policy Development Board, of which I was a member, was set up by the Chief Minister in March 2019 and comprised Ministers, scrutiny representatives and lay members. Our final report and recommendations were published in March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposals published today are based on The Board’s final report and have been endorsed by the Council of Ministers.
So, what are we proposing today?
Firstly, a legal framework to provide more responsive migration controls to help actively manage overall population growth.
It will amend the Control of Housing and Work Law to provide for 9-month, 4-year, 10-year and long-term permissions.
It will remove the graduation mechanism which allows migrants to automatically gain Entitled to Work and Entitled housing status, and it will improve criminal record checks & identity validation.
Secondly, an operational structure to support a simpler, more transparent application and approval process for migration and immigration permissions.
This will improve existing joint working between Customer and Local Services and the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service, and help reduce duplicated effort across all of Government.
Thirdly, and critically from my perspective, we are proposing a new information structure to support improved data collection and analysis, with budget in 2021 to develop a new integrated IT system.
This will be supported by the creation of an independent expert panel to research and advise on population matters.
Fourthly, we propose a political structure to support the decision-making needed to create and maintain a holistic population policy. We will also establish an elected committee of States members to take decisions on unusual cases that fall outside published guidelines.
At present our rules on residency requirements for access to services are confusing.
So, finally, we are proposing a review of migrants’ rights to ensure that Jersey remains an attractive and fair place to work.
We also appreciate the tension that can exist between migration controls and family life and we will review the impact of the proposed changes on families and children.
We believe these proposals will provide the right structure and the data necessary to finally develop the long-term population policy this Island requires – based on a clear understanding of our migrant profile and industry needs.
By coordinating our migration and immigration processes, streamlining decision making and creating a simpler, more transparent application process, we will have the migration controls we need, while keeping Jersey an attractive and welcoming place to live and work.
Government of Jersey News Release.