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Drop changes to immigration rules: Tories

india Updated: Jun 13, 2007 15:58 IST

IANS
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The Conservative Party has called for the suspension of the changes made to immigration rules in November 2006 that have adversely affected thousands of highly skilled professionals from India and other non-European Union countries.

The changes have led to several Indian professionals being served deportation notices, as they no longer meet the new criteria for continuing their stay and work under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP). They first entered Britain under different criteria.

The migrants, who have organised themselves under the HSMP Forum, have held demonstrations and initiated litigation to seek a reversal of the retrospective application of the changes. The campaign has enlisted support from across the political spectrum and leading citizens.

The Conservative Party demanded suspension of the November 2006 changes after Britain's Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) stated last week that the changes breached race laws.

In a letter to Immigration Minister Liam Bryne, the shadow immigration minister Damian Green demanded that in view of the CRE findings, all changes to the HSMP affecting professionals already in Britain should be suspended.

Green wrote: "I spoke and voted against these changes because of our objection to the retrospective element within them. We believe it is unfair that skilled and useful workers who have made a commitment to this country should have the rules of the game changed after they have arrived here.

"It is of course proper for the government to make changes to the qualification procedure for any class of immigrant, but not in the unfair and retrospective way which applied in this case.

"Since the CRE has raised a new point about the failures in consultation before these changes were introduced, I would ask that all measures affecting those who were already in the UK when the changes came into force should be suspended while the legality of the changes is tested."

So far the Home Office has refused to reverse the changes or to stop the retrospective application of the changes to people who are already in Britain as per the earlier criteria.

According to Amit Kapadia, coordinator of the campaign against the changes, Bryne had promised during a meeting on March 26 to review the changes and to get back to him and Labour MP Keith Vaz within days. But so far neither he nor Vaz has received any communication in this regard from Bryne.

Bryne said in an interview: "I make no apology for tightening the rules. What I said to the (HSMP) Forum was quite clear - we will review the way the changes were introduced so we can learn the lessons for when we bring in the new points-based system.

"This was a dry run for the points-based system, and we wanted to test some of the changes. We will reflect on the lessons learned so we can get the points system right in the New Year."

Kapadia said: "Majority of the affected HSMP holders in the UK are from Asian and African countries. The retrospective changes created great difficulties for them to sustain their further stay in Britain.

"Unfortunately the UK government knowingly applied such stringent rules on HSMP holders to disqualify them. Major political parties, immigration lawyers and other bodies insist that the retrospective rules are unfair and unjust and should be reversed but the government is not listening".

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