Britain announces new means to close down or restrict legal emigration pathways for Indians and other non-European Union citizens every few months. The home ministry’s migration advisory committee has proposed yet another new one in the past week: reducing the number of professional migrant workers by between 13 and 25% next year. This, in turn, will be a precursor to an expected nationwide cap on non-European Union professional migrants that has been part of the Conservative government’s agenda from the time they took over the reins of power. The rule will disproportionately affect Indians, who make up the single-largest block of applicants for this specific type of migrant category.
There should be no surprises that Britain is closing its doors to workers from India or the rest of the world. Since it joined the European Union, Britain has continuously narrowed the scope for Indian immigration. From the 1970s to the early 2000s, the number of Indian migrants was curtailed to barely 5% of total immigrants to the country. The door reopened in the economic boom years of the past decade, but only for highly-skilled immigrants. Now, as the British economy enters a recession, this temporary opening is also being closed. What is noteworthy about the new proposals is that they also seek to reduce the number of intra-company worker transfers — a slap in the face of Indian companies who have invested in the country. Indian firms do more direct investment in Britain than they do in all of the rest of Europe put together, but clearly they receive little consideration from Prime Minister David Cameron for doing so. At least the recent proposals should put to rest any residual belief among Indians that Britain is a nation welcoming of immigrants — its foreign-born population is a smaller percentage than that of almost any other western country. They should also lay to rest any sense that there is a special linkage between India and Britain. The primary conduit between the two countries is effectively investment, a dwindling immigrant legacy and tourism. The Indian immigration story has long ago switched to, above all, the United States — with Canada and Australia not far behind. And for the highly-skilled immigrant, the options have increased ten-fold with the Persian Gulf, northern Europe and Southeast Asia all laying out the red carpet. Who would have foreseen the day, as has now happened, that Indians would be the largest source of new immigrants to Sweden?