Byline: PAUL WAUGH
TONY BLAIR is to launch an unprecedented immigration clampdown by charging overseas workers up to [pounds sterling]200 each to get their families into Britain.
In a dramatic move before the general election, migrant workers will face a charge if they appeal against bans on their families joining them from overseas.
Together with new measures to deport more failed asylum seekers, the move will form a key plank of Labour's campaign, it emerged today.
A five-year plan for immigration is set to be published by the Home Office on Monday after winning final approval from the Cabinet.
General election chief Alan Milburn admitted Labour's own private polling shows the public is "angry" at what it sees as abuse by migrants of the present system. Labour is determined to outflank the Tories on immigration, and the five-year plan will include new measures aimed at slashing the number of overseas entrants. At their heart is the proposal to impose a hefty fee on work permitholders who challenge refusals to grant entry to family members.
The fee has yet to be settled but a figure of [pounds sterling]200 is being discussed by ministers. They hope the charge would deter those who try to keep family members here for years during repeated appeals.
"One of the reasons the system is so congested is you have thousands of people on appeal," a minister said.
The number of overseas work permitholders rose from 25,000 in 1995 to 60,000 in 2000. Last year, it soared to 145,000 as the UK struggled to fill its skills gap - and critics claim this figure is inflated many times over by the spouses and other relatives many entrants bring in.
Ministers may now bring in a points system for work permits so only those with the right skills for specific vacancies are allowed to enter the country in the first place. …