A series of individuals have engaged in debates about the controversial issue of the UK immigration laws. Some claim that immigration brings numerous, social, economic and even political benefits to the UK and to the countries that produce these immigrants. However, others argue that UK immigration policy is not a costless phenomenon. In this respect, they believe that the region’s safety or criminal status may be at risk when immigration is allowed to exceed these limits.
Criminological theories provide a suitable avenue for evaluating the validity of such arguments and through such an approach; it is possible to understand the context of the latter assertions. The paper will attempt to explain the role of criminological theories in explaining crime and criminal behaviour with regard to immigration.
UK immigration policies
The United Kingdom immigration policies have undergone a lot of changes over the past few years. As of 2005, the Conservative party announced plans to tighten UK immigration policies with the aim of listing the upper ceiling on immigration. In other words, there was the intention of sealing some of the loopholes in the immigration policy. This was to be achieved through the utilization of several means as asserted by Straubhaar (2006).
First of all, the government planned on instituting electronic embarkation controls for all immigrants. Additionally, asylum seekers were also given strict laws to adhere to; any individual who fails to secure an asylum is to be removed from the UK and taken back to their country of origin. In response to the recent increase in economic migrants, the government announced a system in which the latter groups are to be ranked based on points systems. Those who were able to score highly in this system are the ones with the authenticity to remain in the UK.
It is essential to look into the concerns governing the UK immigration policies from both sides of the coin. In other words, care ought to be given in considering viewpoint from the government’s side and also from critics’ side.
Guild (2007) explains that the British Prime Minister during the year 2004 announced that immigration was an important part of the UK’s economic sphere owing to the fact that a substantial portion of the region’s growing economy has vacancies. These vacancies must be filled and what better way to do this than through migration. The Premier cited a prevalent five hundred and ninety one jobs available annually.
Given the latter announcement, The UK allows economic migrants into the country in order for them to contribute towards the overall development of the country. This is also important in understanding why immigrants from the European continent are not subjected to stricter rules or regulations compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world.
However, Orcalli (2007) explains that the assertions made by the Prime minister about these vacancies were not related to the facts on the ground. According to him, there was a need to incorporate the number of people who change from one job to another or from one profession to another. This is the reason that such a high vacancy rate was reported by the Prime minister. Additionally, the latter author also argues that the unemployment rates within the UK exceed these vacancies hence illustrating that there is a need to look for ways of making the locals fill in these positions.
The British immigration system is more of an open door policy. (Schiff, 2007) The reason behind this is that the former prime minister and his party had asserted that immigration has always been a part of UK’s history and that this was an inevitable part of the country’s economy. While making these assertions, the Prime minister was able to give examples such as refugees from France during the seventeenth century. These refugees were instrumental in growing Britain’s economy. Additionally, he also cited the fact that immigration in the past has also been done based on humanitarian aspects. He explained how families were allowed in the region after it had been established that there were severe problems in their respective countries.
The United Kingdom is particularly selective about the kind of immigrants that enter its borders. This is because usually only those immigrants who have the intention of working or studying in the UK are given clearances. In fact the UK government turns close to a hundred and twenty thousand potential immigrant applications so as to encourage a level of selectiveness within the country. (Zimmerman, 2007)
However, certain areas about the UK immigration policies have been sources of unregulated entry of immigrants into the country. First of all, there are certain language schools that have been responsible for bringing in an unregulated amount of immigrants that usually pass inspection from the affected authorities. Usually, these language schools are allowed to bring in as many language students as they so wish from their country of origin.
Aside from the latter, Kondoh (2006) explains that many immigrants can obtain UK citizenship if they get married to individuals from this nationality. Additionally, the UK is careful about the nature of marriages that occur between foreigners and immigrants. This is because there is a possibility that such arrangements are commercial ones with the sole purpose of increasing an immigrant’s chances of staying within the country. It should be noted here that there is still some improvement because statistics show that close to fifteen percent of all marriages between immigrants and UK nationals are commercial ones.
Peridy (2006) also explains that the United Kingdom is fairly strict about whether or not persons leave the country after their expected stay within the country has expired. Usually, most UK embassies are given the responsibility of ensuring that immigrants will leave the UK after the end of their agreed period of time there. This is the reason why there have been cases of deportations of those individuals who do not comply. However, some critics have asserted that these controls are not as strict as they used to be. In the past, the UK used to have exit controls designed to detect any immigrants who have overstayed their welcome. However, this system is no longer in place and this could act as a serious loophole for persons who intend on bridging immigration laws within the country. In fact, experts have asserted that the largest cause of illegal immigration are those immigrants who were given visas for a short term visit but then chose to stay permanently within the country.
Statistics show that the United Kingdom is not a high migration country. Other countries such as the US or Australia have recorded much higher migration rates than the United Kingdom. Consequently, this implies that the region does adhere to certain forms of strict controls. Lundborg (2006) gives the following figures in relation to the total percentage of immigrants in this developed nation’s workforce:
• Australia- 25%
However, in response to these statistics, some critics have argued that the UK is one of those countries that actively promote primary immigration. This was a reserve for countries such as Australia and the US. It has been argued that the latter continents have more room to accommodate immigrants compared to UK since the latter is densely populated than the former. Consequently, there is no sure way of determining exactly which country’s percentages are more in line with their structural and resource limits.
There are a series of immigrants that are permitted into the UK in order to gain access to a series of workplace opportunities that have their own vacancies. The NHS is particularly associated with this as the largest percentage of its nursing workforce comes from other parts of the world. Additionally, other potential workers normally enter the UK in order to work in its public service. This is the reason why the government has been sorting entry of immigrants so as to encourage infrastructural or economic growth within the country.
Additionally, some people have asserted that the UK immigration laws are biased or racist because there are certain restrictions that do not permit employers in the UK to hire whoever they would like. In response to these comments, the Prime minister asserted that the country’s immigration policies are such that they need to encourage people who will fill in gaps in the country economy.
Munz et al (2007) assert that the UK immigration policies normally target areas with specific skill shortage such as in the field of medicine. According to the latter authors, employers who represent these sectors are free to recruit from any part of the world. However, those coming from, other sectors of the economy need to first look in the UK labour market before they can go outside. Usually, when a certain occupation has not been classified as a sector that is in shortage, then the workers recruited for that profession must come from within. Employers need to show to the UK government that they have tried to source as many workers as possible from within the country to the point of lacking so as to start recruiting immigrants.
Additionally, the UK immigration policies are such that they have given priority to percentages from the European Union in that any person from the European Union is free to work or live in the UK following the latter explanations. In fact, this is the reason why some critics have asserted that immigration policies have become lax over the past few years adding that most people who are affected by it tend to be those ones that are not necessarily linked to the area under consideration.
Crime & victimization and relationship with immigration in the UK
The results relating crime to immigration have not been very positive over the past few years. This is because the rate of crime has increased drastically and this has also corresponded to the increased numbers of immigrants within the country however, one must be careful not to link crime directly to immigrants without due facts. Consequently, the subsequent portions of the essay shall look at the facts surrounding recent crime surveys conducted by the Bureau of statistics and other groups.
Hart (2007) claims that over eighty five percent of all the cash machine thefts that occur within the United Kingdom are committed by organised groups of Romanian origin. In this book, it has been asserted that ascension of Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union has caused serious increases in the level of organised crime within the United Kingdom. Consequently, it is imperative for the country to look for ways in which they can tackle the occurrence of these issues without necessarily creating a situation where the latter immigrants are sidelined.
Cases of increased crimes have caused such great concern to the point that the government has decided to create a platform designed to address crimes committed by immigrants. The agency mandated to deal with these issues is known as the Serious Organised Crime Agency. This agency was created in the year 2006 with the aim of curbing organised crime which is usually committed by the high level of immigrants. Benhabib (2007) also claimed that the government has been closely associating with the Bulgarian and Romanian governments in order to ensure that the chances of occurrence of these crimes are minimised.
The concerns over high crime rates among settling immigrants has also heightened owing to the behavioural patterns of the respective immigrants that settle in the United Kingdom. After the expansion of the EU, a mass influx of immigrants has been registered within the country. These immigrants who enter the country tend to settle in certain areas alone. Consequently, a large population of another group find themselves living in small areas of the UK. Mayer and Peri (2005) argue that this is where the problem could begin. They assert that owing to the fact that most of these immigrants tend to create their own cultural facilities, and then they depict features that make them entirely different from the British or the UK lifestyle. Examples of such facilities include
• Media outlets
• Worship centres
While the latter types of facilities are not harmful in themselves, they create a scenario where the immigrants seem to be distinctly different from the rest of the population thus causing them to be alienated. When the latter group feel alienated, then they will not mind engaging in crimes against the society that has alienated the. Consequently, this is the reason why crime rates in such settlements tend to be much higher than in other areas (Wall, 2007)
Role of criminology theories in explaining crime and criminal behaviour
In order to understand crime, individuals resort to criminological theories; this means that the latter are mechanisms of placing criminal behaviour in context. However, one should not assume that criminal behaviour can be explained by just one theory. In fact, Jones (2001) asserts that these theories usually work hand in hand to complement one another. Hence, weaknesses in one form can be countered by the strengths in another form and this goes a long way in enhancing the overall understanding of crime.
Hale (2005) explains that there a series of criminological theories that can be used to affirm one another, to build upon or even challenge one another. Some of these theories include
• Deterrence theory
• Opportunity theory
• Rational choice
If one decides to use just one of these theories, then they are bound to leave certain gaps in the explanation of crime. Consequently, when the latter are used in conjunction with others, then chances are that there will be better understanding of its occurrence. Also the utilisation of an interdisciplinary or an interrogative approach is always useful in trying to understand why crimes occur the way they do.
Jones (2001) explains that the rational choice theory is one of the most applicable theories of crime around. The rational choice theory is based on the premise that every human being has the ability to choose what action to take and not to take. Usually, this is as result of rational reasoning that involves the process of weighing the potential benefits of the crime in comparison to the harm that might befall them if they choose to commit the crime. When benefits outweigh harm, then a crime is likely to occur. In this regard, crimes would be deterred if they were quite severe, if they were swift and also if they were certain to occur. This is because criminals have an inclination of choosing to commit crimes that will heighten their pleasurable experiences and minimise their pain.
Hale (2005) adds that crime can be explained though the opportunity theory. In this theory, persons choose to commit crime when a certain opportunity has presented itself more directly than if it was not present. Consequently, when there are more opportunities for a potential criminal, then chances are that those crimes will occur. For example, when a certain area contains many restaurants and pubs, then these locations present greater opportunities for crime. Besides this, opportunities can also present themselves in the form of a crime itself; shoplifting does not involve a lot of careful preparation like say robbery with violence, consequently, cases of shoplifting are much higher than robbery with violence because it easier to do the later.
The labelling theory is based on the premise that a person who has been labelled as a criminal will tend to live up to this attachment by actually committing crimes. Consequently, such a theory is founded upon the deliberate and precise acts of certain individuals when tackling differing problems. Accordingly, one’s psychological perception of himself or herself can cause that person to engage in criminal acts if they believe that the public perception about them is that of a criminal and hence there would be no difference if they committed crime anyway. (Smeeding, 2006)
While one may assume that criminological theories are only applicable to certain scenarios, it is imperative for one to draw links between these theories. For instance, the rational choice theory and the labelling theory can be applied in such a manner that one can see the similarities between them. For example, the rational choice theory is founded upon the premise that crime usually occurs as result of the rational decision to commit it in order to gain pleasure or minimise pain. Similarly, it can be argued that in the labelling theory, criminals are motivated to commit crime because of the rational decision or choice to live out their label as criminals.
Role of criminological research in influencing crime and criminal justice policies with regard to immigration
Many people believe that the cases of high crime rates within the United Kingdom as related to immigration can be linked to a series of crimes. The first one is the labelling theory. A number of immigrants perceive themselves as separate from the United Kingdom. This is because ethnic polarisation has increased drastically over the past few years especially after the introduction of the Balkan nation into the EU.
Hart (2007) explains that Britain’s education system and social arrangements have encouraged some degrees of ethnic polarisation. This is because most immigrants tend to live separately from other mainstream Britons. Subsequently, this sort of arrangement creates a form of inequality in treating individuals. In other words, by living separately from the rest of the region these immigrants relate their experiences to their ethnicity rather than to their ambitions or their goals. In the end, the immigrants feel that they are not part of the society that they live in. This is the reason why Kenotz (2006) claims that such immigrants are likely to take actions against the country that are hosting them. By being labelled as different individuals, the immigrants embrace that label and they tend to live up to the expectations that come with being different; one such action is through crime.
Criminological research has played a tremendous role in understanding crime and also in placing these criminal behaviours in the context of immigration or its policies. For instance, media reports have been recorded as saying that there is a crime wave associated with immigration. While this may be an over-generalisation, Kancs (2007) explains that the seemingly high crime rates within the United Kingdom have been a result of the rising population that has been associated with the mass influx of immigrants. Whenever populations increase, then this provides an opportunity for greater numbers of crimes to be committed because it is increasingly difficult to trace the perpetrator. This explanation is in line with the opportunity theory.
However, regardless of the actual reasons behind the increased crime rates, one cannot ignore the fact that the native UK population has registered greater concerns and worries about these crimes. Consequently, many of them have called for sterner actions by the UK government. This has been highlighted by a public demonstration, internet blogs and newspaper columns. Such calls have not gone unheard by the government. Research indicating heightened crime rates have caused the government to introduce new immigration laws. One such example was the upper limit for immigrants entering the country to work. The government realised that in order to reduce these fears, then it had to instate sterner action with regard to the UK population generally.
Orcalli (2007) also explains that the government’s statistics released recently have not done much to ease the fears inherent in native UK citizens. This is because the government asserted that the crime rates in areas saturated by immigrants are just as high as they are in native populations. By making this claim, the government’s intention was to make it appear as though immigrants have not caused surges in the level of crime in the UK. However, this raised a series of questions. If the proportion of the immigrants compared to the natives is quite low, then why were their crime rates comparable to those of the natives? Many individuals assert that criminal behaviour should not be tolerated at all and that it should be somewhere near nil or at a very low percentage. It is very disheartening to find that immigrants who are supposed to be seeking asylum, looking for work or studying are engaging in crime at all. This just means that most of them are violating the terms of their agreements. Most of them agreed to enter the United Kingdom in order to engage in nation building activities and not to commit crimes. (Pasqueeti, 2006)
Through criminological research, it has been revealed that the highest numbers of individuals who have led to increases in prison populations are immigrants. It has been shown that number of foreign prisoners has heightened compared to UK or British prisoners.
Other research reports have indicated that the standards prevalent in immigrant populations are quite different from those ones in the actual population. One such assertion was laid out by the Chief Constable operating in Cambridgeshire – Mrs Julie Spence. She asserted that the immigrant populations operate under different sets of rules in their respective countries. For instance, some immigrants are fond of carrying knives with them as a form of personal protection. This is merely part of their respective country’s culture and they have carried this forward into the United Kingdom. (Guild, 2007)
Over the past few years, criminological research has indicated that the cases of drunk driving have risen tremendously. As we speak over seventeen percent more foreigners have been arrested. Some of these foreigners may not consider drunk driving as such a big problem in their native countries. Additionally, the level of alcohol tolerance in those countries has dramatically reduced compared to its performance during the early hours.
Research has also shown that the numbers of crimes related to feuds between immigrants themselves has risen. For instance, it has been asserted that in Britain a certain Lithuanian murdered another Lithuanian thus causing increasing cases of strain in the police force within such immigrant areas. In fact Lundborg (2006) asserts that crime rates in these respective areas are usually associated with the nature of these respective individuals especially with regard to the kind of nation that they hail from.
Taking the example of a report highlighted by the police constable for Kent; this constable claimed that as of 2007, violent crimes over the past five years have increased by about thirty three percent. He claimed that this was because of the fact that a high number of immigrants have committed these crimes. The latter speaker also asserted that it takes up a lot of police resources to handle the problems associated with these individuals. When a person is arrested by a police officer in relation to a crime and they do not speak English, then police officers have to look for a translator. Consequently, this may cause a considerable wastage of resources on a suspect who may even be guilty of committing that crime. In the end, the person who loses the most is the one who had nothing to do with the crime. Instead of the police force directing their efforts to deal with other potentially dangerous rime, they are busy wasting their time dealing with suspects. (Guild, 2007)
In close relation to the latter argument is the fact that many immigrants actually get weary of the negative treatment which they get from police officers. Most of them assert that certain police officers or society in general may assume that one is a criminal when found in a certain scenario. This usually, makes such immigrants feel sidelined and some of them may make the choice to engage in criminal behaviour to fit into that profile anyway.
All the latter occurrences have affected immigration policies in a number of ways and have also affected the amount of finances spent in dealing with immigration as problems in themselves. For instance, the occurrence of crimes has affected criminal proceedings in court. This is because there is a mandatory requirement for all persons to receive fair trial by understanding their proceedings. Consequently, there is a need for more translators which eventually translates into greater public expenditure.
In close relation to the above issue is the fact that a lot of resources have to be spent to follow up cases relating to immigrants because they require different procedures. This issue has resulted in calls by a number of concerned parties about the possibility of terminating any visa of an individual that could have committed a crime. These parties have asserted that immigration places must be changed to accommodate persons who bridge their end of the bargain. According to them, persons who enter the UK are expected to live by their rules, most immigrants may take part in petty crimes but these are still unacceptable in the country and should therefore be prevented by imposing strict sanctions. This is the reason why the Prime minister responded by changing immigration policies to restrict upper limits of immigrants.
The issue of crime prevalence in immigration has been a highly controversial one. Some people believe that the mass influx of immigrants is directly responsible for the rising crime rates in the country. Others assert that these crime rates are as a result of the labelling that is done against these persons. Whatever the reason may be, one cannot ignore that fact that a substantial portion of the country’s crime rates have gone up. This also correlates to the surges in crime among foreign nationals.
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