Skilled Indians can bring Britain out of recession: Keith Vaz

October 19th, 2008 - 4:51 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 19 (IANS) Britain needs more - not fewer - skilled immigrants from India to help it tide over coming hard times, the chairman of a key parliamentary group said Sunday.“To get out of recession you need to allow skilled workers to come to the UK,” Keith Vaz, chairman of the all-party home affairs committee, said.

“The UK will have to source more skilled workers from outside Europe - from countries such as India,” Vaz, a former minister for Europe and senior MP of Indian origin in Britain, told IANS.

Vaz’s comments came after Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said Saturday British employers needed to hire British citizens rather than migrants who were “ready, willing and able”.

“We are saying to them, ‘We want your first thought and your first option to be retraining and upskilling of British people’,” Woolas said in controversial comments made in the backdrop of the economic crisis that has gripped Britain.

The minister has also signalled plans to place a cap on immigration, saying: “This government isn’t going to allow the population to go up to 70 million [from the current nearly 61 million].”

Vaz, who represents the constituency of Leicester East - known as ‘Little India’ for its large number of Indian-origin inhabitants - issued a strong criticism of Woolas.

“We need to be very, very careful about trying to use the language of the far right, linking immigration to recession - as if immigrants are responsible for the recession,” Vaz said.

The British MP, who has recently returned from a visit to India for consultations on immigration, says Britain will not be able to fill its skills gap entirely from domestic or even European sources.

“The European Union estimates that Europe-wide, we will need 56 million immigrants to keep up with our declining population. We have to look outside Europe over a period of time.”

According to a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research, a leading British think tank, half the Europeans who migrated to Britain after the expansion of the EU in 2004, have returned home.

According to government figures released earlier this year, the number of Eastern European migrants coming to work in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since 2004. Between April and June, 2008, there were 40,000 applications - a drop of 14,000 from the corresponding period in 2007.

Work applications from the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004, including Poland and the Czech Republic, fell by 9,000 in the second quarter of this year compared to the first.

And the number of applications from Bulgaria and Romania - countries which joined the EU in 2007 - has also dropped to 7,005, compared to 10,860 in the corresponding period last year.

Vaz said there is a “lack of clarity” in India about a new Points Based System (PBS) for immigration that has been launched in Britain for those wishing to migrate from outside Europe.

Vaz said Nascom, the body representing the powerful Indian software industry, had told him its members needed more information about the PBS.

The MP said he has written to British Home Minister Jacqui Smith urging her to instruct her department to hold more seminars and face-to-face meetings in India about the PBS.

“There’s a Nov 30 registration deadline that is looming for those who want to apply under the PBS,” Vaz said.

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