Britain shuts out non-European low-skill workers

February 29th, 2008 - 8:43 pm ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Feb 29 (IANS) Britain Friday firmly shut its doors on low-skilled workers from outside the European Union region under a Points Based System that it said heralds the “biggest shake-up of the immigration system in 45 years”. The new system, known by its acronym PBS, will initially apply only to those highly skilled immigrants who are already in Britain and want to extend their stay.

But sweeping changes will kick in by the end of the year “to ensure only the best can work in Britain”, the Home Ministry said.

Under the PBS, highly skilled workers who want to migrate to Britain will have to notch up at least 75 points in order to qualify for a visa to live and work in the country.

Usually they will qualify if they have the necessary skills, good English and earned the equivalent of 40,000 pounds (Rs.3.2 million) the previous year.

Which precise skills are needed have not been listed yet, but doctors are likely to be left out for the moment, with a large number of local medical graduates waiting to fill positions.

“The scheme is designed to attract the most talented with the skills the United Kingdom needs to remain a global leader in the fields of finance, business and technological innovation,” the Home Office said.

However, low skilled workers from outside the 27-nations of the European Union will be barred for the foreseeable future, as the government believes it can fill all manual work vacancies from Eastern European countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.

Among those expected to be hit are Indian restaurants in Britain, many of whom depend on chefs who are imported from India and elsewhere in the subcontinent.

Critics say the regulation will badly affect the 3.5 billion-pound Indian food industry in Britain as very few chefs in India earn Rs.3.2 million a year.

However, there may be respite for unskilled workers applying from the poorest countries - the minimum annual income they have to show is 4,000 pounds (Rs.320,000).

Although they are called Indian, the vast majority of these restaurants are run and owned by Bangladeshi migrants.

“Migrants benefit this country economically, contributing an estimated 6 billion pounds to our national output, as well as socially and culturally, and it is right that we have a system which is fair but firm, accessible but controlled,” said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Alongside the points based system, the government also launched a licensing system for employers who want to recruit from overseas and bring skilled workers into Britain.

From Friday, rogue employers face civil penalties of up to 10,000 pounds for each illegal worker they employ. Those found to have knowingly hired illegal workers could incur an unlimited fine and be sent to prison.

“With the new compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals later in the year, there can be no excuse for not checking the identity of those applying for jobs,” said Immigration Minister Liam Byrne.

This year will also see the establishment of a new Border Agency to ensure Britain has “one of the toughest borders in the world”, the Home Office said.

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