Ministers will finally put forward their long-awaited plan for controlling the island’s rising population two months from today, it has emerged.
According to the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, the draft Migration Policy is expected to be published on 22 September.
The revelation came in a letter responding to questions from Chief Scrutineer Senator Kristina Moore, in which Senator Le Fondré warned that the process for drafting the proposals will involve “difficult decisions”.
However, he assured that, while the policy would aim to reduce the island’s reliance on net inward migration, which has put pressure on the island's housing and resources, it was not intended to "force individuals or families from the island."
Pictured: Senator Kristina Moore, who grilled the Chief Minister on the status of his Migration Policy in a letter.
Jersey's population is now estimated to stand at around 108,000 people. According to statisticians, there was an increase of around 1,100 people between 2018 and 2019, with 1,000 more people coming into the island than leaving.
Of the 1,000 people entering the island, half were 'licensed' employees and their families, while the other half were 'registered' employees and their families.
In March, the Migration Policy Development Board put forward proposals to control the flow with four new worker 'statuses' to replace the current employment licence system: nine month status, four year status, and ten year status.
These would apply to named individuals – each with a Digital ID, and subject to a criminal records check - in order that permissions cannot be ‘recycled’ by businesses, as is the current case.
Pictured: Growth in the island's population. (Statistics Jersey)
But, as well as curbing migration, the rationale behind the idea was to create a system putting Jersey broadly in line with the UK's post-Brexit points-based scheme in order that islanders can continue to enjoy membership of the Common Travel Area, allowing them to easily travel to the UK, Eire and Isle of Man.
In a report of over 300 pages, the board also suggested returning seasonal workers should be able to access benefits they have ‘paid in’. The idea marked a change from an interim report published in October, which examined charges for hospital and primary health services for migrant workers.
However, responding to questions from Senator Moore, the Chief Minister emphasised that the Board's proposals were not concrete and only intended to provide a "foundation to inform our considerations of this important topic".
Senator Moore queried: "Do you have any concerns with what is being proposed by the Board? What risks do you believe the proposed policies run in forcing individuals or families to leave the Island?"
Pictured: Plans for a 'status' system have been put forward to replace the current employment licence scheme.
"It seemed to me that the Board had sought to have regard for the impact of its recommendations on individuals and families and had sought to be proportionate in its recommendations. Although it is likely that some difficult decisions will be required to produce a migration policy that reduces the island’s reliance on net inward migration it is not intended that a future policy would force individuals or families from the island," the Chief Minister replied.
Senator Le Fondré reiterated that the Council of Ministers had not made any firm decisions yet when asked if he felt there would be any risks in merging the department responsible for Social Security with Customs and Migration, adding: "I do not envisage a merging of these two departments, but there are likely opportunities to improve processes and data sharing in a way that offer a more streamlined service for those wishing to live and/or work in Jersey."
Hospitality bosses had previously expressed concerns about the move towards a UK-style points-based system, having already struggled to recruit under the present system.
Asked what engagement Ministers have had with the sector, the Chief Minister replied: "As you will be aware the negotiations between the UK and EU on the future immigration controls have been ongoing and changeable. JCIS carried out a survey with local business stakeholders at the end of 2019 on the UK’s proposed immigration scheme and the MPDB and JCIS regularly spoke with a number of stakeholders, including the hospitality sector, in its considerations.
"Throughout these communications employers have stated the importance to their businesses of being able to continue to access EU workers after the transition period at the end of 2020. These concerns have been fed back to relevant Ministers and are being considered as part of future immigration and migration policy."
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