Pin Lu, from WaterInk

It looks whenever the UK government wants to appear tough on immigration, it would announce some half-hearted measures to make the immigration process a bit more unpleasant. The points-based system is a great improvement. But then came the hiking of visa fees, changing the time required for permanent residency from four to five years and retrospectively applying it (hence the protest and law suit from those came with highly skilled migrant visa), and the mandatory English test etc. which all looked good as a headline but won’t change much in practice. The points-based system was meant to attract the most qualified migrants, yet it seems those additional measures keeping popping up are purely there to make the application process a little bit more annoying, time-consuming and expensive.

The new “migrant tax”, a £50 extra visa charge to non-EU migrants, is just one of them. The migrants have already paid whatever cost their application would incur directly. They have paid the visa fee. They bring spending money with them. In the case of international students, they will pay the full university tuition fee (ranging from £4,000 to £18,000 per year) as well. Once they are here, they will pay the living costs and pay tax if they work, and are not eligible to pub fund for some time in most cases. If this country takes them as part of the community, surely they should contribute, equally as the other members of the society, to the public services and infrastructures, through the tried and tested general taxation?

The non-EU migrants are a soft target. If this “migrant tax”, according to the government, will be used to improve local services and infrastructures to meet the demand caused by influx of migrants, wouldn’t it be fair for those who pay it demand it be used to improve the services they are actually going to use? The recent influx of economic migrants, which is believed to cause the stress to local service, is mainly from the eastern European countries. If we accept the government’s argument that the new arrivals must pay extra for the services and infrastructures, wouldn’t it be fair for the non-EU migrants to ask why the people coming from EU countries are not making the equal contribution? By picking up non-EU migrants, this new “migrant tax” is not only labelling the migrants as negative contributors to the society, but also aggravating the divide between EU and non-EU migrants.

Immigrants have made great contribution to this country. At this crisis time, UK need the talent, entrepreneurship and creativity from it’s migrant community. There is no doubt some local areas are struggling to cope with the sudden demographic change caused by recent migration. I believe people from all communities would welcome a fair and transparent system to redistribute resources in order to meet the demand. This “migrant tax” is not fair and practical. Even if it raises the £70m the government hope to, it will still need a workable system to distribute them.

There are 230 thousand international students from non-EU countries studying in the UK. They came here looking up to the UK society as a whole. This country ought to inspire them with the value of fairness. This new “migrant tax” looks petty and greedy. It’s degrading to both who charge it and who have to pay it.