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  1. ITV Report

Ukip's Reckless suggests EU migrants could be sent back - even if they have worked in the UK 'a long time'

Ukip candidate Mark Reckless has sparked controversy after suggesting EU migrants who have been in the UK for a number of years could still be forced to return to their native country.

In a hustings event organised by ITV News Meridian, the candidate for Rochester and Strood argued that workers such as ‘Polish plumbers’ who had been in the country for a long time, owned a house and had children in school, should only be given a work permit for a “fixed period”.

In response to a question about such working migrants, Mr Reckless - the Tory MP whose defection to Ukip sparked the by-election - said:

I think in the near term we would have to have a transitional period, and I think we should probably allow people who are currently here to have a work permit at least for a fixed period.

I think people who have been here a long time and who have integrated … I think we would want to look sympathetically at.

I think what we would want to do is with new people coming in … is to apply a consistent, Australian-style points system.

– Mark Reckless, Ukip candidate
Mr Reckless was challenged by Labour candidate Naushabah Khan Credit: ITV News

His comments were met with laughter and jeers from the audience, and angered Labour candidate Naushabah Khan, who interrupted him to ask:

Where would you stop Mark? My family are migrants – are we going to say that they need to go back as well?

– Naushabah Khan, Labour candidate

His proposed points system, he said, would treat EU migrants in the same way as migrants from Africa, India, and the Caribbean, rather than favouring people from any particular origin.

The hustings event was held at the University of Kent in Medway, and gave residents a chance to ask any last-minute questions of the candidates ahead of polling day tomorrow.

Ukip have since reportedly moved to distance themselves from the remarks, with a spokesman telling The Guardian Mr Reckless had "misunderstood" the premise of the question.

It is absolutely not our policy to round up EU migrants and put them on a boat at Dover and send them back to wherever they came from.

Ukip’s position on migration is entirely clear. We need to sort out our borders, and we cannot do so whilst we remain in the European Union. Those who are in this country lawfully, such as those from EU nations, would have the right to remain.

Those who are here illegally would have to apply for work permits.

– Ukip spokesman