David Cameron visa vow to hit Aussie migrants to Britain
By Peter Wilson
The Australian, May 15, 2010
Britain's new Conservative-led government confirmed yesterday it plans to make it harder for Australians to work in Britain.
Newly appointed Home Secretary Theresa May said a cap would be imposed on workers and business migrants from Australia and other non-European countries in order to halve Britain's level of net immigration.
'We will be reducing the number of non-European economic migrants,' Ms May said, adding that an annual limit would be set on the relevant types of visas.
Australian workers are among the main targets of the clampdown because Britain's membership of the EU stops it from closing the door to the 430 million citizens of EU countries.
'Australians are in for a nasty shock if they think it is their right to go and work in the UK for a few years just because that's what generations of other Australians have done,' said one senior Australian in London familiar with the planned immigration changes.
Over the two most recent years for which British immigration statistics are available, 2007 and 2008, Australians were the fourth-largest group of non-EU immigrants behind Indians. Chinese and Pakistanis.
A total of 32,000 Australians moved to Britain in that time and 36,000 returned home, highlighting the tradition of many Australians working in Britain for just a few years. More than 250,000 Australians are believed to live in Britain, compared with 1.3 million Britons in Australia.
This week's post-election horse-trading between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives ended in an emphatic win for the Tories on immigration.
The Liberal Democrats abandoned their campaign pledge of an amnesty for some illegal immigrants and won only one policy concession on the issue: an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes.
Yesterday's allocation of non-cabinet ministries confirmed the Tory dominance on what became a potent issue in the election, with new Prime Minister David Cameron announcing that the man who designed the tough Conservative policy, the former shadow immigration minister Damian Green, would take the portfolio and work under Ms May, another Tory.
It is not clear if the clampdown will hurt the popular working holiday scheme that allows workers aged under 30 from Australia and four other countries to spend up to two years in Britain.
The previous immigration minister, Phil Woolas, told The Weekend Australian the former government had been happy with the level of migration from Australia.
Many Conservative MPs say they do not want to see the immigration changes affect Australians but the government is not legally permitted to single out specific non-EU nationalities for tougher or more lenient treatment.