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'UK immigration cap should be scrapped'

Nov 26, 2010, 12:30 PM | Article By: Alhagie Mbye, The Point's UK correspondent

The United Kingdom Home Secretary, Theresa May, has told the House of Commons about the coalition government's intention of drastically reducing the number of foreign student coming to the country, prompting her critics openly calling for the 'immigration cap to be scrapped'.

Speculations and opinions from a vast section of the British media regarding the immigration issue is now been confirmed by the Home Secretary who added that the 'number of visas issued to foreign students will be cut by up to 120,000'. The figure raised by the government is even higher than those estimated by many experts and commentators including relevant people monitoring immigration issues in the country.

Even though the reduction on immigration is seen as an effort to 'achieve Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge of a dramatic reduction in immigration', many commentators said that the estimated number is 'unacceptable and should revisited'. Another very common and persistent argument is the fact that the cut should not be directed to foreign students most of whom are coming into the country through the 'proper channel'.

Therefore proponents of the plan are arguing the fact that the government is now turning to foreign students who according to figures represent 60 per cent of the migrants is 'working in the right direction'. On the other hand, experts who are totally against the proposal including some MPs are saying that it 'unacceptable and unjustified' and must be reconsidered.

This correspondent verified the Home Secretary's plans to also impose a limit of about 22,000 in 2011 on the number of skilled non-European workers coming to the country. But several education commentators, tutors and students are unhappy that in future visas would only be issued to students taking up degree courses, thus leaving behind thousand of prospective students.

Nonetheless the Home Secretary suggested that 'recent check of students studying at private institutions below degree level showed that a quarter could not be accounted for'. The reason behind this she explained is the fact that 'too many students at these lower levels have been coming here with a view to living and working, rather than studying. We need to stop this abuse', she added.

However, John Mountford, the international director of the Association of Colleges, who is highly regarded by the education institutions in the country argues otherwise and further advised that foreign students coming to the Britain on courses below degree level are the ones that 'subsidise UK universities and UK students by going on to degrees later'.

According to figures seen by the Point, the plan will bring the total number of skilled workers to between 35,000 to 40,000. Until last year, the number was recorded to be around just 10,000 to 15,000, which is far less compare to the current figures prompting many suggesting that it is done in order to 'satisfy the target of Prime Minister Cameron'.

Earlier reports by this correspondent regarding that fact that the government agreed to the industry and commerce's demand supported by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary who is from the Liberal Democrats to also exempt the so-called 'intra-company transfers' (ICTs) from the cap has been confirmed.

The opposition Labour party is not keeping quiet about the matter and its new leader has denounced such moves as 'not practical'. Furthermore, Labour is also very unhappy with the school reforms by the current government and demanded a 'rethink' to such proposals.

Responding to such plans, Ed Balls, the shadow Home Secretary, claimed that 'government policy was in complete chaos and confusion' He claimed further that the Home Secretary intentions for a cap were a 'con because of the exclusion of some businesses'.

Matters relating to family reunions also concerns some Ministers forcing some of them even describing as 'immoral'. Others even went further to suggest that it may in many instances 'illegal' and thus could be challenged in court.

One very respectable commentator said that 'blocking skilled workers is bad economics… stopping other lucrative additions to a sector worth nearly £40bn to our economy is more than faulty economics: it risks damaging the international standing of British universities'.

It is worth noting that despite the criticisms, the Home Secretary is also open to other people's viewpoints and suggestions and thus is still waiting for a consultation for few more weeks on the proposals prior to any final decision.

This correspondent also discovers that a more detailed and comprehensive immigration plan will be set out during the course of the new year and the decision for a consultation by the Home Secretary is highly appreciated by several immigration and econimic experts.