London: In a move likely to affect Indian
professionals as well as British trade and industry, the David
Cameron coalition government has decided to impose an annual
cap on the number of immigrants from non-EU countries.
Unveiling the full text of the coalition agreement
between his Conservative party and Liberal Democrats on Thursday,
Prime Minister Cameron said the government will introduce "new
measures to minimise abuse of the immigration system, for
example via student routes, and will tackle human trafficking
as a priority."
Among the new measures to minimize abuse of the student
visa system is likely to be the introduction of bonds before
coming here to study at British institutions. The bond amount
is proposed to be returned when the non-EU students leave
after completing studies.
However, the proposed annual cap is expected to face
opposition from British companies struggling to recruit
employees with the right skills.
Campaign groups such as the Highly Skilled Migrants Forum
have already announced that they will oppose such limits.
Amit Kapadia, director of the Forum, told PTI: "Any such
cap will affect Indian professionals because most non-European
Union migrants to the UK come from India. But we will oppose
and lobby against any illogical number or cap that the
government may seek to impose."
Kapadia said any knee-jerk attempt to impose a cap will
hurt the British economy and will be opposed by British
business and industry.
The agreement text says: "The government believes that
immigration has enriched our culture and strengthened our
economy, but it must be controlled so that people have
confidence in the system.
"We also recognise that to ensure cohesion and protect
our public services, we need to introduce a cap on immigration
and reduce the number of non-EU immigrants."
It added: "We will introduce an annual limit on the
number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to
live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for
implementing the limit."
In its pre-election pronouncements, the Conservative
party had favoured reduction of net immigration to the levels
of the 1990s ? "tens of thousands a year, instead of the
hundreds of thousands every year under the Labour government".
Kapadia said in the 1990s the overall net immigration was
around 70,000 every year, while in 2009 the figure was nearly
150,000. Taking steps to bring the figure down to 70,000 now
will mean a drastic cut, which would be unworkable and would
be liable to face legal challenges.