British racehorse trainers in the multi-million pound racing industry who depend on overseas stable workers have been ordered to “wean themselves off their addiction to immigration” by the UK Border Agency.
The BBC reports that the stark warning comes after the role of “work riders” was removed from the government’s official shortage occupations list for jobs that can be filled by non-EU immigrants.
The trainers claim UK applicants have become “too heavy” and are not skilled enough.
Stables need lightweight riders to train horses which are ridden by tiny jockeys who starve themselves to make ridiculous weights.
But all bets are off at the UK Border Agency (UKBA) which argues that shortages are due to “low pay rather than a lack of skills” or excess of fat.
Where have we heard that one before?
One trainer, Bryan Smart of Sutton Bank, said he needs riders from outside the EU because British youngsters were “too large”.
Mr Smart said he now fears that tough new UKBA Immigration Rules, designed to slash net migration from hundreds to tens of thousands by 2015, would cut off the supply of much needed staff and could be the last straw for stables.
His claims are supported by Rupert Arnold, the Chief Executive of the National Trainers’ Federation.
He said: “This is the crux of the whole thing: racing has a particular need for lightweight people training young thoroughbred horses.
“You would not want heavy people to ride thoroughbreds.”
Smart has a substantial business with 65 racehorses at his stables in the Hambleton District of North Yorkshire. He said: “We need light staff and the foreign staff from India and Pakistan are quite light and they’ve got good skills.
“They’ve been on track riding out there so they do seem to know the job.
“The population of this country is getting bigger, the kids coming from school are a lot bigger; they could go down the National Hunt route, but we need light staff for the young horses, the yearlings that go on to be two-year-olds.”
Jockey and riders from India and Pakistan are also recruited by stables in Gulf countries such as Dubai.
Mr Arnold added that there were between 500 and 600 overseas riders who faced leaving the UK when their current visas or leave to remain in the UK expires.
Like other workers, they face many hurdles to remain in the UK, although 5 years on a work permit (Tier 2) should be sufficient to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain or UK permanent residency.
He said: “You need people with the right skills and light weight to ride horses at speed.”
He added that the percentage of the population in the EU with those combinations was “very small”.
Industry chances of a rule change were dismissed as a ‘non-starter’ by the UKBA, which says ‘nay’ to work permits for riders and will not even entertain a ‘steward’s enquiry’!
A UKBA spokesman said: “Businesses in all areas of the economy must wean themselves off their addiction to immigration – it is the only way we will retain our own skilled workforce.
“We removed work riders from the shortage occupation list on the recommendation of the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
“The MAC found that shortages of work riders was largely due to low pay, rather than a lack of skills in the UK.”
As further evidence of the ‘ever growing’ youth of Britain, the appropriately named Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, confirmed that he had seen a growing trend over a number of years of childhood obesity continuing into adulthood.
He said: “Youngsters are starting (overweight) badly and it is continuing.
“These (horse-racing) people are looking at British children and saying: ‘They are too heavy’.”
Notable racehorse owners include: Oscar Winning Director Stephen Spielberg, Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Fergusson, the Aga Khan, the Queen and probably the biggest owner of them all Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai.
Prince William and Kate are big horseracing fans and attend race meetings at Royal Ascot.
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