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Home > News > PTI

NRIs protest 'discriminatory' UK immigration laws

H S Rao in London | January 11, 2007 22:35 IST

Braving chilly wind and a drizzle, scores of highly-skilled Indian nationals on Thursday held a protest demonstration in front of the British Parliament urging the Labour government to withdraw discriminatory immigration rules.

The protestors demanded that the promises made to them under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme be kept.

Former Labour Minister for Visas and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Keith Vaz, parliamentarian, and the Conservative party spokesperson and Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green attended the rally and urged the British government to look at the issue afresh and do justice to the affected people.

They also held a demonstration in front of the 10, Downing Street and presented a memorandum to a representative of Prime Minister's Office.

Describing the whole issue as 'bizarre,' Vaz told PTI that having invited the highly skilled Indians to come and help the economy here, it was improper to have suddenly changed the rules to their disadvantage.

"It is a slap on the face of those who had gone through proper process and complied with the regulations only to be left in the limbo regarding their future. We request the home secretary to change the rules," he said.

Vaz said on the one hand four senior ministers, including Chancellor Gordon Brown, Secretary for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling, Secretary Environment David Miliband and Secretary International Development Hilary Benn would be visiting India next week to boost bilateral relations and on the other hand the 'changes in the immigration rules sends out completely wrong message and weakens and not strengthens relations with India.'

Vaz said he would personally take up the issue with the Home Secretary John Reid.

Shadow Immigration minister Damien Green described the government move as 'unfair, perverse and wrong.'

"As far as these individuals are concerned they came here trusting the promises made by the government. The government's action to change their promises is bad for British economy and is sending a wrong signal that Britain may not play fair," he said.

My party had voted against the change of rules but government got it passed, he said, adding: "I will continue to write and persuade the Home Secretary to withdraw the rules affecting the Highly Skilled Migrants."      

Amit Kapadia, organiser and spokesperson for the HSMP forum said the highly skilled migrants who came here three to four years ago on the promise of a better future were now being forced to leave by the Home Office after the introduction of new stringent rules on November 8, 2006 that is affecting vast majority of 49,000 highly skilled migrants plus their families living in Britain.

He said the British Home Office has been controversially changing their policies, initially during March 2006 when the non-European Union doctors who entered Britain with an understanding that they could enter into employment were shown the door without any prior notice as European countries were given priority by health authorities.

This was continued by increasing the settlement period for ILR (indefinite leave to remain) from 4 to 5 years and more recently drastic new changes have been introduced on Nov 8, 2006 for extension of HSMP visas.

With the implementation of the revised rules on Nov 8, 2006, it requires HSMP migrants to re-qualify through a points based system for their further visa extension.

Many HSMP migrants will not quality for further extension due to the new changes and will be forced to wind up their establishments, careers, schooling of their children and investments and will be asked to leave the country.

Under the new rules those above 28 years of age and earning less than 35,000 pounds per annum are not qualified to continue to work in UK.

Amit Kapadia said Keith Vaz has assured the HSMP forum that he would organize a meeting of forum representatives with the Home Secretary John Reid where parliamentarians of Asian-origin would also be present.

Habib Rahman, chief executive, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "This treatment of highly skilled migrants from poorer countries is heartless. At the very least the Government should negotiate a transitional arrangement for these migrants who are already present in the UK.   

"It is particularly ludicrous that migrants' age should count against them when a new law against age discrimination in employment has recently been introduced by the UK government. This risks discrimination and sending employers contradictory messages," he said.

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