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UK to impose annual cap on immigrants from non-EU countries

world Updated: May 20, 2010 19:54 IST
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In a move likely to affect Indian professionals as well as British trade and industry, the David Cameron coalition government has decided to impose an annual cap on the number of immigrants from non-EU countries.

Unveiling the full text of the coalition agreement between his Conservative party and Liberal Democrats today, Prime Minister Cameron said the government will introduce "new measures to minimise abuse of the immigration system, for example via student routes, and will tackle human trafficking as a priority."

Among the new measures to minimize abuse of the student visa system is likely to be the introduction of bonds before coming here to study at British institutions. The bond amount is proposed to be returned when the non-EU students leave after completing studies.

However, the proposed annual cap is expected to face opposition from British companies struggling to recruit employees with the right skills.

Campaign groups such as the Highly Skilled Migrants Forum have already announced that they will oppose such limits.

Amit Kapadia, director of the Forum, said: "Any such cap will affect Indian professionals because most non-European Union migrants to the UK come from India. But we will oppose and lobby against any illogical number or cap that the government may seek to impose."

Kapadia said any knee-jerk attempt to impose a cap will hurt the British economy and will be opposed by British business and industry.

The agreement text says: "The government believes that immigration has enriched our culture and strengthened our economy, but it must be controlled so that people have confidence in the system.

"We also recognise that to ensure cohesion and protect our public services, we need to introduce a cap on immigration and reduce the number of non-EU immigrants."

It added: "We will introduce an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit."

In its pre-election pronouncements, the Conservative party had favoured reduction of net immigration to the levels of the 1990s – "tens of thousands a year, instead of the hundreds of thousands every year under the Labour government".

Kapadia said in the 1990s the overall net immigration was around 70,000 every year, while in 2009 the figure was nearly 150,000. Taking steps to bring the figure down to 70,000 now will mean a drastic cut, which would be unworkable and would be liable to face legal challenges.

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