Three in five people want the Government’s immigration policy to make it as "difficult as possible" for illegal immigrants to remain in the UK, according to a new poll.
But the Ipsos MORI research also shows that, in the wake of the Windrush scandal, three in five of us believe that priority should be given to ensuring that people who do have the legal right to remain are not wrongly forced to leave.
The research makes it clear that, despite opposing illegal migration, the majority of the British public believe those with the legal right to live in the UK should be prioritised "even if this means some illegal immigrants are not deported".
The polling comes just a couple of days after the ONS released figures showing that 77 per cent of local authority areas had seen a significant increase in their non-UK born population in the past decade.
The public want a "tough but fair" stance on immigration
According to Ipsos MORI, the findings indicate that Britons want a "tough but fair" immigration system, with most of us being more concerned with protecting the rights of legal migrants than crackdowns on illegal residents.
Research Director Kully Kaur-Ballagan said that "the majority of the public still want immigration levels reduced and there is support for ‘tough but fair’ immigration policy that is tough on illegal immigrants but one that protects those who have a legal right to be here".
The people surveyed put the Windrush scandal down to Government incompetence, and this - rather than disillusionment with policy - may have driven an increase in the number of people who say they are dissatisfied with the way the Government is dealing with immigration.
This figure has increased from 53 per cent in March to 60 per cent today.
Three in five of us said they felt ashamed of how Britain has treated the Windrush generation, while just fewer than one in 10 said they feel no shame over the issue.
This number would likely include Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary, who was critical of the government’s handling of the Windrush scandal.
Immigration is still dividing people along ideological lines
The data reveals that there is still a large difference of opinion on this point between Leave and Remain voters. Half of Leave voters said that immigration has been negative for Britain, while 67 per cent of Remainers say it has been positive.
The poll also found that only one in five people say they are more positive about immigration now that Britain has voted to leave the EU, while a quarter disagreed.
Of those who have become more positive, two in five say it's because they recognise the contribution of immigrants to the UK. However roughly the same proportion say their improved outlook is down to a belief that Brexit will result in a reduction in immigration, or that it has already done so.
This finding further highlights the divide that exists in Britain over immigration's contribution to the UK, and how future immigration policy should be shaped.
Immigration remains a key battleground for Theresa May
Overall support for reducing immigration levels is still strong, with over half of the British public still wanting to see immigration levels reduced.
This will come as good news for Conservative Brexiteers who are pushing for a cleaner break with the EU, and oppose remaining in the single market which would mean the UK would likely have to accept Freedom of Movement.
An independant immigration policy was a significant driver of the Leave vote, and so continued support from the British public for reduced levels of immigration could empower Eurosceptics within the Tory party.
And while Theresa May has insisted she wants to see net migration fall, the Government is yet to put forward a post-Brexit immigration policy.