A recently published study has claimed that politicians can do relatively little. An excerpt:
"[. . .] The study of 1,000 found people were most concerned about immigrant groups politicians could do little to cut. The research by the university's Migration Observatory found broad overall support for cutting immigration to the UK, although less in Scotland. [. . .] The Migration Observatory said it wanted answers to two questions that do not feature in standard opinion polls on immigration. It asked respondents whom they referred to as immigrants and whether they wanted cuts to specific categories, such as asylum seekers, workers or students.
The report found approximately 70% of people want a cut in immigrants, broadly supporting previous surveys. A fifth said they thought immigration should stay at current levels. Six out of 10 people thought the most likely reason someone came to the UK was for asylum, followed by just over half saying migrants mainly arrived to work. This contrasted sharply with official statistics that show students make up the largest group of immigrants, followed by workers. Approximately 4% of all migrants in 2009 were asylum seekers.[. . .]" (see here for the report).
One important part of any government's immigration policy is to help clarify the situation for the public. It is unhelpful to plan policies around deep misperceptions about immigration, such as the numbers arriving as asylum seekers. While the government may not be able to reduce the numbers of asylum seekers and EU citizens, the government can control non-EU student visas and these have faced a substantial reduction. The wider concern many have is that this effort to show action on immigration may be harmful to the UK's economic recovery and very unwelcome by the higher education sector.
Of course, a second part is revising - and updating - the UK's Life in the UK citizenship test which we have noted before. There also appears to be action on this as well by the government, which is a welcome development which I will be following closely and providing updates where possible.
UPDATE: I recommend Matt Cavanaugh's piece here with analysis of the above mentioned report.