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Updated: November 12, 2009 22:13 IST

Major shake-up of U.K.’s immigration rules

Hasan Suroor
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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
AP British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Thousands of skilled jobs, now open to immigrants, are proposed to be restricted only to native Britons and immigrants from the European Union in a major shake-up of Britain’s immigration rules announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday as part of his promise of “British jobs for British people”.

Hospital consultants, engineers, chefs and care workers are among a wide range of categories of skilled professionals who would be recruited locally. These jobs would be removed from the list of professions which are now open to non-EU immigrants.

“We will remove more occupations and therefore thousands more posts from the list of those eligible for entry under the points-based system,” Mr. Brown said.

Rules for student visas, already made difficult under the new points-based system, would be further strengthened to prevent “abuse” of the system. In future, student visas may be restricted to only those applying for degree and postgraduate courses rather than short-term programmes.

In a strongly-worded statement, Mr. Brown said immigration was an issue that lay “at the heart of our politics” and rejected what he dismissed as “lazy elitism” the view that raising concerns about immigration was racist.

“I have never agreed with the lazy elitism that dismisses immigration as an issue, or portrays anyone who has concerns about immigration as a racist. Immigration is not an issue for fringe parties nor a taboo subject,” he added.

Mr. Brown’s remarks, in a speech in West London, were seen as an attempt to appease white working class ahead of next year’s general election after polls showed that immigration was the single most important issue which was prompting Labour voters to desert the party. Many white working class voters are said to be turning to the far-right British National Party accusing Labour of being “soft” on immigration.

Recently, in a public mea culpa, Home Secretary Alan Johnson admitted that the government had not handled the immigration issue properly and taken a “long time” to deal with it.

While rejecting the Tories’ call for an annual cap on immigration, Mr. Brown made clear that only those who contributed to British society would be allowed to enter Britain. They would also be expected to speak English and respect the British way of life.

“Ours is a something for something, nothing for nothing society,” he said arguing that people wanted to be assured that newcomers would accept the “responsibilities as well as the rights that come with living here — obeying the law, speaking English, and making a contribution.”


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