Addressing the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Miliband backed claims that including students offered the government a short-cut to reducing immigration by curbing non-EU student visas.
“They cannot possibly deliver their target of getting net migration down to the tens of thousands. It means they are now starting to make decisions like stopping universities generating income from foreign students,” he said.
Miliband also promised to include English language students in his party’s review of the immigration system – an encouraging sign for the ELT sector which has suffered a spate of insolvencies over the last year through the government’s policies.
“He seemed well-informed and able to speak at length on the issues affecting the English language sector, which was very encouraging,” said English UK chief executive, Tony Millns.
Miliband, a second generation immigrant, used the speech to extol the benefits of immigration for Britain. However, he criticised former Labour leaders for being “dazzled by globalisation and sanguine about [immigration's] price” when they were in power.
He said that the party had underestimated the scale of immigration from new EU states ( the biggest “peacetime migration in recent history”) and that the party had not listened to people’s concerns.
He called for a more effective border agency, and tougher labour standards and workers’ rights
Among proposals to control immigration, he called for a more effective border agency and tougher labour standards and workers’ rights. But he emphasised the need to attract foreigners who “contribute their talents to our economy and society.”
“To have the right debate about immigration, we must avoid two dangers. The first is the trap of wishing away public concern about immigration, failing to address it, and hoping it goes away,” he said.
“The second is either in rhetoric or in promises made, suggesting that we can close Britain off from the world, when all of us know we cannot.”
- A BBC Newsnight broadcast on 20 June on the government’s student visa policy can be viewed here