Hasan Suroor

Curbs on new immigrants

Brown likely to announce new policy

British employers voice concern

LONDON: Thousands of prospective Indian immigrants will be affected by the British government’s plans to make it compulsory for skilled migrants from outside the European Union to be able to speak, write and understand English before they are allowed to enter Britain.

At present, the rule applies only to highly-skilled migrants such as doctors but the government now plans to extend it to skilled workers who want to settle in Britain. They include IT professionals, a majority of whom come from India, and workers employed in the service sector. Indian restaurants, dependent heavily on chefs, waiters and other kitchen staff who are “imported” from India, will be badly hit.

Under the proposed rules, expected to be announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday, applicants will be required either to pass an internationally recognised English test or produce evidence that they have learnt English from a recognised institution in order to qualify for a work permit.

The proposal is part of the government’s new tough immigration controls to check alleged abuse of the system and reduce immigration levels as the issue climbs on top of the domestic agenda ahead of a possible snap election. Last year, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh accounted for the bulk of skilled migrants from outside the E.U. Of an estimated 1,45,000 skilled workers who were given job permits, 51,000 were from the Indian subcontinent. In the IT sector, most of the 30,000-odd permit holders came from India.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told The Sunday Telegraph that the move was intended to encourage greater integration and indicated that the rule was likely to be extended to low-skilled workers as well.

Employers voiced concern that restrictions on overseas workers would affect the British economy.

“In recent years, migrant workers to the U.K. have ensured the continued growth of the economy, possessing a work ethic and skill level that many young British people just do not have.

“Of course, language skills are important, but I would be concerned if this meant that those who want to work and help our economy grow are kept out of the country and take their skills and talent elsewhere,” David Frost, director-general of British Chambers of Commerce told the BBC.