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'Indian doctors are safe in UK'

British minister Liam Byrne clarifies the new immigration measures, applicable from Feb 29, are only for fresh applicants & not existing ones, reports Amit Baruah.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2008 16:55 IST
Amit Baruah

Britain will launch its new points-based immigration system from February 29, visiting Minister of State for Borders and Immigration Liam Byrne announced at a select press briefing on Wednesday.

Initially, the system will be launched in the United Kingdom, and is to be extended to British missions abroad on April 1. According to the minister, who is here to consult on a wide variety of immigration and visa changes, the new process would be much more transparent.

Later, talking to the Hindustan Times, the minister said that compulsory identity cards would be introduced for foreign nationals who stayed longer than six months in the UK by December this year. Asked if the UK would also adopt Australia's approach to asylum-seekers, as it had done with the points-based immigration system, Byrne said, “No”.

“Conversations about asylum seekers need to be kept separate,” he said. According to Byrne, pressures on public services and downward pressures on wages were reasons to take a re-look at the immigration system in the UK.

The "sub-text" to these changes were not triggered by the need to take counter-terrorism measures, the minister remarked, pointing out that Britain was introducing tough border controls.

Asked what would happen to the thousands of Indian doctors working in the UK, the minister clarified that the new measures were only for fresh applicants and not existing ones.

The minister said the issue of Indian doctors in the UK had been raised by his Indian interlocutors and he was aware of the concerns of medical practitioners. Britain, he stressed, was also aware that migrants contributed £6 billion to the country's economy in 2006.

Byrne also said that the existing visit visa system to the UK needed to change, which would include flexible business visas and "modernised" family visas. According to Byrne, he had come with an all-party, cross-faith delegation to India so that the issue should not be seen as a political one in Britain.