Monday, July 5, 2010

UK cap on immigration from non-European countries

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London June 29, 2010

UK’s new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government today delivered on a pre-election promise to put a cap on the immigration of workforce from non-European countries. Home Secretary Theresa May today announced an annual cap on immigration from non-UK countries into the UK that will be limited to 24,100 or five per cent less than last year.

An annual cap on immigration was a key plank to the Tory party’s run-up to the election in May this year.

The number of workers entering the UK from outside Europe would be controlled by this new limit, Theresa May announced today. Net migration will be scaled back to the levels of the 1990s - to tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands. Introducing a limit on migrants from outside Europe coming here to work was just one of the ways the government intended to achieve this, a Home office release said.

This is only a temporary policy. Permanent limits on non-EU economic migration routes will then be decided and put in place by April 1, 2011.

Details of how the final limit is to be delivered will be agreed upon following a 12-week consultation with businesses. In the meantime an interim limit will be introduced to ensure there is no rush of applications and the number of work visas issued stays below the 2009 levels.

The results of the consultation on the permanent limit will pave the way for fundamental changes to the way in which workers from outside the EU will be chosen to come and work in the UK. The home secretary has also asked the Migration Advisory Committee, the government’s independent adviser on migration issues, to launch a separate consultation into what level the limit should be set at, taking into account social and economic impacts.

May said, “This Government believes that Britain can benefit from migration but not uncontrolled migration. I recognise the importance of attracting the brightest and the best to ensure strong economic growth, but unlimited migration places unacceptable pressure on public services. While we consult on our tough new limit it’s important we have an interim measure to avoid a rush of applications for migrants and ensure that the number of work visas issued stays below 2009 levels.”

The fresh move by UK’s new government was met with guarded concern by the Indian government and strong opposition by the Indian industry. India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who was attending a CII-LSE conference in London today said he would take up India’s concerns about immigration cap with his counterparts in the UK. He is to meet UK’s foreign secretary William Hague, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Prime Minister David Cameron as well.

Earlier at the conference on the subject of protectionism, Sharma warned that G-20 countries must not raise any fresh barriers for emerging economies. He said a country like UK had India as the second largest investor after US and there are over 500 Indian companies that have offices in the UK. He further pointed out that India (business with Indian origin) is the second largest employer in the UK after the UK government itself.

Confederation of Indian Industry’s director general Chandrajit Banerjee said if the UK government wanted to forge new and fresh alliance with India, such immigration caps must not exist.

John Cridland, deputy director-general, CBI, UK’s industry body said: “Introducing a cap for work permits is a valid way of balancing the need for skilled workers with the social pressures caused by immigration. But it’s important that we get the structure right. It should be designed so that very highly-skilled people who are essential to work being done in Britain can get a permit more readily. As well as setting the cap at the right level, the Government should also be able to adjust it in future to meet changing economic circumstances.”

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