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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of FCDO Outreach

16th December 2010

Migration to the UK

The issue of immigration is an emotive one. In countries that are net recipients of migrants, such as my own, immigration is often high on the political agenda. At a time of economic recession, when every job counts, migrants are often accused of “taking away” the jobs of others born in the country but unemployed. Differences of  colour, religion, customs and values can generate tensions. And in countries that are net “exporters” of migrants, there is often resentment at efforts by recipient countries to control numbers, or even expel illegal migrants who, in many cases, have often left their own country for the simple reason of seeking a better life.

The balance is a difficult one. The United Kingdom has a proud tradition of receiving immigrants from all over the world, including those fleeing from political persecution in their own countries. But we also recognise that the rights of legal migrants are often best protected by reducing illegal immigration, itself often leading  to exploitation in the work place, and xenophobia in local communities. We also recognise that every country has a right to control the entry to its shores of foreigners. Generosity can have real implications. For example, between 1999 and 2009 the numbers of students and their families from outside Europe entering Britain rose by 80% from 272,000 to 489,000 people.

The British government recognises the enormous contribution made to British life by legal immigrants. It has made clear that it wishes to encourage genuine students to come to the United Kingdom to study in our world class educational institutions. But we also need to limit the numbers of those who are coming in order, principally, not to study but to work illegally. For that reason, the government has launched a public consultation on the student immigration system. All are encouraged to take part. Bolivians who wish to do so can access the consultation document before 31 January. We should be delighted to hear from you, so that you can help us improve our system and help encourage genuine students to come to Britain.

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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