Immigration crackdown cuts migrant workers by just 6,000, Home Office says
A much-heralded crackdown on illegal immigration will cut highly skilled migrant workers by as little as 6,000, the Government said.
By Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor
Last Updated: 10:27PM GMT 10 Mar 2009
Critics said the impact of any changes on immigration levels would be “a drop in the ocean”.
The new curbs on highly-skilled migrants coming to Britain are aimed at making sure Britons are given a “fair crack of the whip” before jobs are offered abroad.
Workers from outside the European Union will need better qualifications and guarantees of better paid jobs before they are given work permits.
A detailed analysis of the impact of the changes showed they were likely to reduce the number of successful applications by between 6,000 and 24,000.
The cost of the changes – in part due to lost income to the UK Border Agency from visa fees – could be as high as 15 million.
New rules to prevent abuse of the immigration system by people pretending to be students were also announced.
Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said the changes would limit the amount of time people could spend on “low level” courses and set stricter limits on courses which include work placements.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said that compared with “net immigration of nearly 240,000, [the figure] is a drop in the ocean.
“If we want to avoid our population hitting 70 million we have to get immigration down to 50,000 a year.”
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, added: “The Government is floundering around to claim it has immigration under better control.
“It is now reduced to discouraging the sort of highly-educated people that are most likely to contribute to Britain's future wealth.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The important thing is that numbers start to go down rather than up in a recession.
“Those migrants who do come [must] either have a high level of skill and therefore bring the most economic contribution or have a specific job to come to which no resident worker can fill.”
Meanwhile, Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, called for the Office for National Statistics to stick to “predictable deadlines”.
Sir Gus was speaking after Mr Woolas accused the organisation of trying to “grab headlines” over the “sinister” timing of figures showing one in nine British residents was born abroad.
Sir Gus insisted that figures should be released on “clear, predictable deadlines”.
Speaking at a civil service conference, Sir Gus said: “I want (the ONS) to be boring, to put out the plain facts, and nothing but the facts, and on clear, predictable deadlines.”
It would then be for politicians and Government press officers to interpret the figures, he said.
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