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Half-open door policy

Highly-skilled Indian migrants in Britain seem to be mountaineering on molehills. They are contesting the British government’s claims that recent changes made to the visa rules, while not retrospective, do not grant an inalienable right for any migrant to settle in that country.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2008 22:26 IST

Highly-skilled Indian migrants in Britain seem to be mountaineering on molehills. They are contesting the British government’s claims that recent changes made to the visa rules, while not retrospective, do not grant an inalienable right for any migrant to settle in that country. Parliamentary Under-secretary, Lord Hunt in the Ministry of Justice, reportedly reiterated this last week while clarifying the government’s position to representatives of Indian migrants. Tens of thousands of Indian migrants are concerned about the ‘retrospective’ nature of the new rules in Britain’s Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP). These jitters, however, may be misplaced as it is up to the Home Office to decide when, and how, to modify its immigration policy. If it wants certain criteria to be met before migrant workers are extended visa extensions, then so be it. After all, this is a universal practice and every country has the right to decide on the extent of liberalisation in its immigration laws.

Skilled and qualified migrants, in any case, need not be bothered about meeting the requisite eligibility criteria. The same goes for the points system and etiquette guidelines for immigrants to be enforced soon. Apparently, information packs explaining British customs and containing advice on social rules such as ‘not littering, not spitting and queuing in shops’ are also to be given to new migrants. Such rules cannot be faulted as long as they don’t morph into a very restrictive visa regime that unduly straitjackets the movement of qualified workers from other countries. As happened a couple of years ago when the British government suddenly made it mandatory for doctors coming to Britain from outside the European Union to acquire permits not just to work, but also to train there. This forced HSMP migrants to re-qualify and introduced new tests, including earnings requirements and academic qualifications.

We had criticised the move in these columns since it meant abolishing the Department of Health’s system of allowing doctors from abroad to seek permit-free National Health Scheme training jobs in Britain. This would have denied Indian and other non-EU doctors their jobs even after they qualified in the tests.