This Article is From Jul 04, 2010

New UK immigration laws worry Indians

London: The thorny issue of immigration which dominated the British elections, is one of the factors that hastened the demise of the previous British Prime Minister.

Gordon Brown may have called Gillian Duffy a bigot, but most believed she was only echoing the popular sentiment. As boom turned to bust in the UK, anger turned against the flood of migrants taking away British jobs.

It is a stance the Tories believe won them many votes. They have rushed to implement it barely a few months in government.

The temporary cap on the number of highly skilled non EU migrants allowed into the country to work will bring down the numbers from about 30,000 last year to a little more than 24,000 this year - a reduction by five per cent.

But once in government, the Tories realise it is an issue of politics versus economics, with businesses resisting the move.

"Indians are the biggest non EU migrant community in the UK. The cap affects migrants who can enter the country on tier one and tier two. Indians are the largest numbers coming through this route of highly skilled visas," said Sarah from IPPR.

The frequent changes in the immigration policy - often knee jerk reactions to popular sentiment, are already creating labour gaps in an economy that in the recent years has relied heavily on migrants. One of four doctors in the country's health care system is Indian. The government wooed them in the 80s and 90s, then realised there were too many. Now, there is a shortage of thousands of doctors once again with the NHS going to India to recruit doctors once again.

"There was a flood situation...then times like now when there is a drought," said Dr Ramesh Mehta from BAPIO.

The permanent cap that comes into effect from next year, for which the government has announced a three month consultation process, is likely to be much tougher than the temporary cap. If it caps the numbers coming on the intra-company transfer route, or the route that allows global companies to transfer their employees here without going through the tough visa procedures, which at the moment are exempt under the interim cap, then Indian businesses will take a bad hit. There are also indications that foreign students, many of whom are Indian, will face stricter rules from next year.

Though the economics of clamping down on immigration may not make the best business sense, the government knowing the popular sentiment has to be seen taking strict action.