London: Indian professionals joined other highly-skilled migrants at a protest opposite Downing Street in London on Tuesday against the UK government's "unfair and inhumane" visa policies. The Highly Skilled Migrants group claims to represent over 600 doctors, engineers, IT professionals, teachers and their families in Britain and has raised over 25,000 pounds to challenge the UK Home Office in the courts where necessary.
"We are a group of highly skilled migrants who have been suffering because of injustice done by the Home Office. This group was formed coincidently on different social media platforms because of the unfairness and inhumane policies the Home Office had been bringing," the group said in a statement.
The protest on Tuesday focussed on the issue of indefinite leave to remain (ILR) applications being delayed or turned down by the UK Home Office on the basis of a section of the UK Immigration Act which is aimed at criminals and tax evaders.
The professionals, who entered the UK on a Tier 1 (General) visa years ago, are entitled to apply for ILR after five years of lawful residency in the UK.
While the visa category used by numerous IT professionals from India among others was discontinued in 2010, the applicants are eligible to apply for permanent residency in Britain if they meet the necessary requirements.
"Skilled migrants with excellent educational and professional skills are being refused ILR on the ground of 'tax error rectification' because of small errors they have made in their tax returns in the past, which they have long ago rectified and paid off," claims Aditi Bhardwaj, one of the organisers of the protest.
Most protesting professionals, who are from countries outside the European Union (EU), claim to no longer have any ties to their country of origin as they have made their lives in the UK over the past many years. They are also protesting against the long delays in processing of these ILR or permanent residency documents.
The UK Home Office claims it resolves all visa applications "as quickly as possible".
"It is vital, however, that the correct decisions are made, particularly with complex Tier-1 applications that require detailed consideration and verification of evidence with HMRC. These robust checks are essential to avoid the potential abuse of our immigration or tax system. Where such abuse is identified, we will act accordingly," a spokesperson said.