A report examining the proposed changes to Jersey’s Migration Control Policy has been published by the Migration and Population Review Panel.
The Chief Minister’s proposed changes introduce nine-month, four-year and ten-year permission statuses for migrant workers and one long-term permission. Workers employed for nine-months and four-years would leave the Island for three months and one year respectively, at the end of each permission.
The report identifies a number of key areas for concern, including:
- The workability of the new Control of Housing and Work Law (CHWL permissions, particularly for the agriculture, hospitality and construction sectors. These concerns focussed on the duration of the short-term permission in relation to projects and the provision of training and a loss of skills at the end of permission periods;
- A lack of robust data to inform the policy;
- The long-term impact of Brexit and COVID-19; and
- A lack of clarity regarding the conditions which will apply to the permissions.
While the majority of Islanders who responded to the Panel’s call for evidence were keen for the Government to address migration and introduce responsive controls, many also highlighted their unease about the timing given the disruption caused by both Brexit and the introduction of restrictions to counter the pandemic. There was concern that additional regulation would cause greater hardship to businesses which were already struggling.
The Panel also identified general confusion about the relationship between the CHWL permissions and the Island’s immigration regulations and heard concerns about whether the rights of migrant workers and their families had played a central role on the development of the permissions.
Senator Steve Pallett, Chair of the Population and Migration Review Panel, said: “We recognise that the Government is in an unenviable position in relation to the timing of the proposition. The need for a population policy and a review of the Island’s migration controls is urgent but we also face a combination of global and national factors, compounded by a lack of robust data that means the States Assembly are likely to be debating controls without being able to see the whole picture.
“This Panel has no desire to delay debate on the introduction of a responsive system, but we need to make sure it is right and equitable for all who come to live and work in Jersey. We hope our recommendations will assist and address some of the concerns that have been expressed to us.”
The Panel’s report noted that a number of projects are taking place this year which will inform the wider common population policy. These include the Census 2021, the introduction of a new £1 million migration data system and reviews of both housing and benefits. The Panel believes that the up-to-date statistics and information these projects will provide would also have been useful in the development of the proposed CHWL permissions.
In addition to the permissions, the Proposition seeks to introduce an Independent, Statutory, Expert Panel to consult on a common population policy. The Panel’s view is that the membership of the independent panel must be diverse and representative of the whole community. To ensure that this is the case, this Panel has lodged an amendment to the Proposition to give the States Assembly, rather than the Chief Minister, final approval of the membership of the Independent Panel.
The Panel has made nine recommendations to the Chief Minister, which include:
- To clarify the relationship between the Immigration (Work Permit) Rules 1995 and the Control of Housing and Work Law 2012 to ensure the proposed permissions work for all sectors of the economy.
- To provide a report to the States Assembly before the debate the proposition, detailing the costs businesses will incur for employing a migrant worker through the CHWL and immigration regulations.
- To undertake further consultation with the agricultural, hospitality and construction sectors before the proposed permissions are adopted and address the guidelines for ten-year permission open to key professionals.
- To ensure that the Chief Minister commits to ensuring that the Independent, Statutory, Expert Panel reflects the Island in terms of race, ethnicity, age, religion and gender.
The Panel will soon launch the second phase of their review into the remaining elements of the proposition. This will develop a number of key themes that have arisen throughout Phase 1, including the need to ensure continued economic prosperity and evidence that the rights of migrants and their families have been placed at the heart of future policies.