The Chief Executive of the JHA, Simon Soar, has written an open letter to Jersey’s politicians urging caution over plans to introduce further measures to limit immigration.
In his letter, Mr Soar outlines the effects Brexit has had on the available labour market, cutting it by 85% and adding to the acute challenges already being faced by the industry.
His letter comes a week ahead of a vote in the States on a new Migration Control Policy. Among the proposed measures are 9 month, 4 year and 10 year permissions but Mr Soar writes that while there’s a desire for further measures, the new border controls introduced because of Brexit already achieve much of what the policy is aiming to do.
Read the letter in full –
Dear States Member
The JHA is Jersey’s independent trade association, with sole focus on the hospitality industry. The industry peaks annually at around 6400 staff.
In July 2018, the hospitality industry had 1633 active seasonal permissions in place. The pandemic caused a dramatic decrease in seasonal staff (1670 according to Stats), demonstrating how dependent the industry is on seasonal staff, and therefore vulnerable to change.
In January 2021, Brexit finally came into force, and the new immigration policy became active. This is the most significant change to control factors introduced in decades. Access to free moving individuals who could have come into the island without a border permission being granted, reduced from a possible 510 million people to 76 million. This represents a reduction of 85% to the Island’s previously available labour market and is already presenting acute challenges moving forward.
The purpose of this letter is to demonstrate that existing immigration rules already achieve what the proposed Population Policy is aiming to do, therefore making it an unnecessary step, especially as we are absorbing the changes brought in because of Brexit and while we are dealing with a global pandemic.
Brief breakdown of last year’s position vs potential new position
Last year: Immigration policy – the right for someone to cross over the border into the Island for any purpose. Previously the Jersey border was freely open to 510 million EU residents, it is now freely open to approximately 76 million who are in the Common Travel Area (CTA) or who have settled status. All other potential entrants can be controlled.
Potential New Position: Migration Policy – the local restrictions put in place to govern the ability for those not from the Island to work or reside here. This is already achieved through the operation of the Control of Housing and Work (Jersey) law 2012 (“CHW”).
Under the new immigration policy, individuals from outside the CTA are granted a permit and border permission via a visa to enter and work in the island for a fixed term, currently either 9 months for early career positions, or up to 3 years for more senior positions. This removes the possibility of such individuals gaining residential status or contributing to an increase in the total population.
This process alone will have a significant impact on the way people move in and out of the island and, in essence, will achieve many of the objectives that would be similarly addressed in a population policy.
The work permit scheme allows an individual to arrive and work in the Island for one business, for a fixed period (9 months or 3 years) and thereafter by law, leave the Island for defined periods. The individual must have accommodation provided, submit passport details and also provide a police check for any country they have lived in for more than 1 year in the last 10 years.
While there is a belief by many that the level of population increase the Island has experienced is not sustainable, we must be very aware and careful of the negative consequences of going from a position of low controls to turning all the available control mechanisms to maximum in one fell swoop.
Existing inward migration controls have not proved adequate when paired to the previous UK/EU position on free movement of people. However, the new and highly restrictive border controls may well have the desired effect on the net migration position and objectives.
The concern is that if there are two control points, one should not change them both simultaneously. If this is done, there is no clear way of understanding which variable has had the necessary impact and which is acting as a compounding factor.
It has been evidenced that some net migration is required to sustain the Island and, of course, there needs to be an ability to control how this can be achieved. However, to have a successful, diversified, and balanced economy there must also be fair opportunity across all industries to allow them to satisfy their workforce requirements.
The JHA strongly recommends that Government allows the impact of Brexit to be understood and to use existing policies to adjust migration where necessary from there. Prior to any additional point of control being created, the full impact of the border control changes must be understood and documented.
The Island relies on a workforce to bring in outside skillsets and for hospitality, that is generally provided by a transient workforce. We also must be clear that to attract much needed senior staff the process cannot be overly onerous as this could have a permanently damaging effect to attracting the right staff that cannot be sourced, or even trained, locally to the necessary level and within the timeframe allowed.
It is wholly necessary to employ individuals from the CTA to help provide essential resource for the island as we move forward.
We are approaching the 2021 season still in the midst, but hopefully to be foreshortened, global pandemic shortly after the UK has significantly changed its relationship with the EU. It would be an inappropriate and risky move to make the changes proposed without fully understanding the new landscape ahead. Changes that do damage in the short term are unlikely to be reversed in time to save what is already looking to be a very curtailed summer season. Guernsey has already seen this problem happen, even prior to the current situation, to the point that they have seriously struggled to find staff for the industry in their Island. The result is that the challenges overcome the opportunities, resulting in deep and lasting structural damage to their inbound tourism and hospitality sector.
We do not want to encourage poaching between local venues or to let the product and guest safety suffer due to an inability to resource businesses correctly. Also, forcing additional staff turnover has a detrimental impact on productivity. Improving productivity is vital for the economy going forward and is an aim of the Government of Jersey.
This policy decision will be crucial to the future face of the Island and it needs to be carefully aligned with any desires to preserve, maintain, or develop our hospitality and tourism sector. The quality of life for Islanders is linked to this and we would like that to be carefully considered as decisions are made. While it is clear there is political and public desire to achieve control over inward migration to the Island, the new immigration rules applying to our borders will provide an immediate indication to the level of control that is achievable and if deemed necessary can be adjusted to suit circumstances as they arise. When the migration policy was first discussed, it was pre-COVID and pre-Brexit. We find ourselves in a very different position now, and this must be factored into any decisions made.
To conclude, a new migration policy has been the desire of many for a long time. It may not be overly clear, but the Island now has one that has been created by our new border control. I would implore all Members to carefully review and understand the new position. We really need to recognise and appreciate the impact of what has happened before we can risk adding even more layers on top of the new controls now in place.
If you would like to discuss any of this further, please don’t hesitate to contact me