Former UK Prime Minister speaks out against Labour's new immigration policies

The UK's former prime minister, Tony Blair, said he still believes the UK did the right thing by letting in Polish immigrants when they did saying the immigrants did "good work in our country"; He also said that "most sensible people" appreciated the contribution they made to the UK.

This follows last week's comments from the Leader of the UK Labour Party (the official opposition party), Ed Miliband, who outlined the party's new immigration policies saying the new measures will prevent British people being "locked out" of jobs by foreign workers. Miliband claimed that the previous government allowed in too many immigrants from Eastern Europe by lifting controls on EU accession countries such as Poland too quickly. It is interesting to note that Ed Miliband's grandparents were Polish Jewish immigrants in Belgium. Ed Miliband's father a prominent Marxist thinker was born in Belgium, but fled to the UK in 1940 to avoid Nazi persecution.

Over the past decade, more than 700,000 Eastern Europeans have emigrated to the UK for work, a far higher figure than the 15,000 that the then Government predicted would arrive each year.

Blair said the government should focus on illegal immigration rather than changing immigration policy. Blair addressed whether or not the UK had made a mistake in relaxing controls for Eastern Europeans saying: "In some ways, I don't regret it because the Polish community and other communities from Eastern Europe do good work in our country. I'm happy with them, [but] I understand there's a very marked sensitivity around that. I think most sensible people in Britain can see immigrants have made a great contribution to our country."

Blair added that the "central problem is not about immigration per se... it's where it's uncontrolled, it's illegal, and there's organised crime and drugs".

"There has been a collision of a large amount of immigration from Eastern Europe and a UK labour market that is frankly too often nasty, brutish and short-term," Miliband said last week. "There are clearly issues that people have been raising over a number of years. We have to look at where the rules are right and, if they are wrong, what we can do about it. You have to have the right entitlements in place."

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