British judge to rule on HSMP challenge Tuesday

April 8th, 2008 - 10:57 am ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 8 (IANS) The fate of tens of thousands of highly skilled Indian migrants and their families is set to be decided later Tuesday when a judge decides on the validity of changes made by the British government to its visa rules. Some 49,000 mostly Indian migrants have accused the government of breaching European race relations and human rights acts by abruptly changing the rules governing its Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP) visas.

Launched in 2002, the scheme was aimed at attracting doctors, engineers, accountants and IT specialists to fill a skills gap in Britain. But it was changed in 2006 with applicants now having to show annual incomes of at least 40,000 pounds ($80,000) and be younger than 32 years in order to qualify under a new Points Based System.

Because the changes were made retrospectively, they affect those migrants who are already in Britain on HSMP visas, who now have to reapply under the new rules, said Amit Kapadia, executive director of the HSMP Forum, a non-profit organisation.

“We remain optimistic. Thousands of our members are keenly anticipating the judgement,” Kapadia, who has mounted a high-profile challenge to the changes in the rules, told IANS.

Kapadia says 90 percent of the Forum’s members - around 44,000 people who left well-paid jobs in India and other countries to settle and raise families in Britain - may have to leave if the changes are applied retrospectively.

Such migrants include Sanjeev Sachdev, who left a highly-paid IT job in Saudi Arabia in 2004 to set up home in Britain along with his wife - a teacher - and two young children.

“Under the previous rules, the fact that my wife was qualified entitled us to us extra points, as did my experience in work. But now I will have to requalify. And I know I won’t qualify under the new system,” Sachdev told IANS.

Sachdev says the reason he will not qualify is that he chose to settle down in Birmingham rather than London, opting for a salary that was lower than what he would have earned in London.

“My son is now 11 and my daughter is seven. They are very well settled here - in fact they don’t know India at all.

“The worst case scenario is that I’ll have to pack my bags and leave. That would be a disaster,” Sachdev added.

According to Kapadia, up to 150,000 people may be at risk when families are taken into account.

A Home Office spokeswoman said last month the changes were part of the government’s commitment to “managing the numbers of foreign workers entering the UK in the national interest”.

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