Britain will begin capping the number of non-European Union migrants coming into the country to work for the first time next month, a Home Office source said on Saturday.
Just 24,100 workers will be allowed in between next month and April 2011 — a five per cent cut on the number who arrived in the same period last year.
The aim is to prevent a sudden influx in arrivals before a permanent annual limit, a key election pledge of PM David Cameron’s Conservative party, is introduced next year. “It’s not about cutting, it’s about preventing a rush,” the source said.
Home Secretary Theresa May will declare the measure on Monday along with a consultation on the annual limit.
There will be no limits on the number of migrants allowed to come in from an overseas company to a branch in Britain under the cap, while other specific groups — such as elite sports people — will be exempt.
In 2008, migration to Britain was 163,000. This was down from 233,000 in 2007 but the Conservatives said in their manifesto to cut this to levels seen in the 1990s when it was “tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands”. The figure includes EU migrants on whom the government has no control due to the bloc’s open borders.