Britain sets interim limit on non-EU migration (Lead)

June 29th, 2010 - 12:32 am ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
London, June 28 (IANS) The British government Monday set an interim limit of 24,100 on non-EU migration to the country, ahead of a permanent cap to be introduced next April after consulting businesses and gauging the needs of the economy.

Announcing this in parliament, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “This is only one part of our policy to bring down immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. We will bring forward further proposals in this regard.”

She said the interim cap is being introduced to ensure there is no rush of applications and the number of work visas issued stays below the 2009 levels.

Between January and March 2010, 6,685 people were granted tier-one visas — that deal with migrants with desirable professional skills — suggesting about 19,000 people would be allowed in during the nine months covered by the interim cap.

She said the general points under tier-one visa for investors were being revised to bring in the “best and brightest” into the country.

She also announced a three-month period of consultations with businesses, universities, pubic service organisations and the Migration Advisory Committee before implementing a permanent cap from April, 2011.

Internal transfers of staff by muti-national companies will initially be exempted. The measures include capping the number of tier-one highly skilled migrants at current levels and making the terms for non-EU workers who come to do highly skilled jobs stiffer.

The home secretary has also asked the Migration Advisory Committee to launch a separate consultation into what level the limit should be set at, taking into account social and economic impacts.

May said: “We are giving a very clear message to those people who have been concerned about immigration, that not only are we delivering on our promise to have that annual limit but we are making sure that we take the necessary action so that we don’t get a rush of people coming in.”

Shadow home secretary Alan Johnson said it was a “minor” change that would not only apply to just one in seven would-be migrants but would hit those most needed by the British economy.

Reacting to the government proposal, Tim Finch, head of migration, equalities and citizenship, Institute for Public Policy Research, said: “Such policies could have a serious impact on economic recovery, depriving important sectors of skilled workers and creating labour shortages in some industries.”

“Reducing foreign student numbers could have a devastating effect on the higher-education sector, which needs their fees. And all this at a time when net migration is falling anyway - the latest figures show an 11 percent drop,” Finch said.

However, favouring the immigration cap, Alp Mehmet, Migration Watch’s advisory council member and spokesman, said: “There is no need to exclude those with the skills we require; or the top-flight students who come, complete their studies and return to their countries to make use of their knowledge and expertise. Nor, indeed, do we wish to keep out the genuine spouse and fiancée.”

But there should be no scope for those who use these categories as a means to enter Britain to settle, said Mehmet.

According to official statistics, from 2000 to June 2009 around 503,000 people came into Britain, down from 530,000 on the previous year.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), just under 8 percent of the country’s working population has non-British citizenship.

Going by the estimated population of foreigners living in Britain by foreign country of birth, the maximum are from India. Between July, 2008 and July, 2009 there were 660,000 Indians, compared with 502,000 in 2004.

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