New plans announced last week to curb professionals and students from India and other non-EU countries continue to evoke sharp reaction in the UK, with noted Indian-origin entrepreneur Karan Bilimoria saying “this is not the Britain I know”.
Senior Labour MP Virendra Sharma has written to Prime Minister Theresa May to express his “disgust” at the plans announced at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, saying the development is “little more than a return to the nasty party”.
Bilimoria, who came to Britain as a student and went on to found a successful business, told Hindustan Times on Tuesday the plans “saddened him”. He recalled that Britain would not be what it was today without the contribution of immigrants.
“When I came here in 1982, Britain was a closed country, full of prejudice, but it evolved into a meritocracy over the last 30 years. Glass ceilings shattered and Indians reached the top. Suddenly, this wretched EU referendum and its aftermath have shocked us all,” he said.
An independent member of the House of Lords, Bilimoria said the signals coming out of Birmingham were “anti-business, anti-immigration and anti-international students”, when Britain should be sending positive signals to students from India and other countries.
Bilimoria, who is also president of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said it was his mission to make Britain the top destination for Indian students, but regretted that signals coming out of the May government were not conducive to internationalism.
“There is a contradiction in the government saying there is no limit on international students and also including students in the net migration statistics. Our universities are not only key to Britain’s soft power but international students contribute £14 billion to the economy,” he said.
Sharma, the MP of Ealing Southall, referred to the Birmingham plans and said: “The policies announced amount to little more than a return to the nasty party. Theresa May now leads a party that wants to close Britain off from the world.
“If we turn our backs on thousands of students from abroad we will permanently damage the UK’s reputation as a world leader while financially crippling the higher education institutions thousands of British students rely on for an education,” he added.
Recalling that thousands of Indian doctors and nurses work in the National Health Service, Sharma said if the plans are implemented, the NHS will not be able to carry on without thousands of staff from across the globe, “but the home secretary and prime minister seem ideologically committed to sending thousands of staff away”.