The Bailiwick of Jersey is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy. It is a self-governing parliamentary democracy, under a constitutional monarchy which, while it is not part of the United Kingdom, is defended by the UK. Traditionally, it has been famous for lending its name to sweaters, cows and caramels. Because people like being snug and warm, enjoy dairy produce and love caramel (and want the convenience of being close to France), Jersey has been a popular destination for immigrants. This popularity was shown in the 2011 census which revealed that Jersey’s population had grown to 98,000 people, a 10% increase from the 2001 population. Two-thirds of the increase of 900 people from 2010 was due to immigration, the rest being accounted for by more births than deaths.
For many years the island has welcomed immigrants. According to Chief Minister Senator Ian Gorst:
“‘We know that historically the island has relied on immigration, it has helped with our tax take and the services we provided.
Migrants have contributed financially to our community, and undertaken jobs that some members of our community have not wanted to take, so it takes time to re-balance that approach.’”
While flattering for the Islanders that many which to join them, and while immigration has been beneficial economically in the past, the government of Jersey has started to get nervous about the number of immigrants in recent years. In 2009, a Population Policy was agreed to which set a limit to the population of 100,000 and allowed for inward migration of an average of 150 households per year on a 5 year rolling average. Gorst has said that priority for available jobs and support will be given to islanders, and that the government will restrict the number of job licences issued to those outside the island who deliver “sizeable economic value”.
To this end, a new law has been approved by the Privy Council (which oversees decisions made by the Assembly of the States of Jersey) and is expected to come into force in February 2013. This new control of housing and work law will introduce registration cards and a population register. People moving to Jersey under the law will require a registration card. However, islanders who want to change jobs or move house will also need a registration card! This card will replace the social security card and will need to be shown to new employers and when buying or renting property. It is hoped that these cards will bring more control over migrants to Jersey. According to the Assistant Chief Minister Senator Paul Routier:
“This legislation is essential in achieving our strategic objectives of limiting immigration and securing employment for locally qualified people."
Of course, being an island makes it easier to control the inflow of migrants to your shores. The question will be whether Jersey will be able to stop the rising tide of immigration or whether it will be left standing in the shallows, arm outstretched in defiance, like Canute. (If Jersey is successful, I wonder how much interest its laws will stimulate in the UK as it wrestles with its own immigration debate? And if the UK does seek to implement similar legislation, what the EU will have to say about it?)