As a Nobel Prize winning scientist says UK immigration policies are “stupid”, a leading think tank warns that net migration targets will not be met.
Prime Ministers David Cameron’s election pledge to slash the number of immigrants coming to Britain has been called into question by a new report.
Cameron’s Conservative Government promised in 2011 to drastically cut net migration to the UK to the “tens of thousands” or less than 100,000 a year.
However, experts predict net migration for 2013 will stay at around – 20,000 less than this year, the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) warns.
This is expected to rise again in 2014, when 30 million Bulgarians and Romanians are give full EU treaty right to live and work in the UK.
The respected left wing think tank also said the Government’s immigration cap is blocking entry to talented people who could boost Britain’s economy.
The ippr also warns that April’s clampdown on foreign students has cost the UK £15billion in lost business.
IPPR chief Sarah Mulley said: “The net migration target is keeping out migrants who make a significant economic contribution and are not the focus of public concerns.”
The report follows a scorching attack this weekend by the Nobel prize-winning scientist, whose discovery at a British university will help the UK economy become more competitive, who described the Government’s immigration policy as “stupid”.
The brilliant Russian-born physicist Professor Sir Andre Geim said new restrictions on non-EU immigrants, minimum salary requirements of at least £31,000 and tighter student visa rules, are blocking the brightest academics from working at British institutions. He told The Independent on Sunday that the restrictions would have prevented him and his Manchester based research team from identifying the revolutionary “super-material” Graphene, which earned him the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010.
Sir Andre gave a stark warning that future scientific breakthroughs at British institutions were “at risk” because of the tighter immigration controls. His views mirror those of London Mayor Boris Johnson, and a number of Government Ministers who want David Cameron to devise a more sophisticated approach to immigration, such as exempting foreign students from the target.
Graphene, which was isolated by Sir Andre and his team of Russian and Chinese scientists at Manchester University in 2005, is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged similarly to graphite. It is exceedingly tough, and could transform the development of touch-screen technology, clothing fabric and even energy creation.
Sir Andre said: “We need to distinguish between good and bad immigration – there is a difference between a person who brings a family of 20 who cannot speak English and a bright overseas student.
“Most students already do not plan to stay in this country – around 10 per cent will. I can’t stress enough how stupid it is that the Government has put immigrants and overseas students in the same category. [Education] is a billion-dollar industry and overseas students should be made welcome.
“To put a minimum salary requirement in place might undermine students’ chances to secure certain positions after graduation, and I can’t see a reason for this as there are enough restrictions in place already. When employers consider somebody for a position they already consider that to hire a foreign national will cause additional problems because of the language barrier.”
The Government has placed harsh restrictions on foreign students, including tougher English tests and removing the right to work for those studying at private colleges, and a minimum salary requirement of between £31,000 and £49,000, depending on family connection, on workers.
Boris Johnson and some ministers warn that the radical steps are putting off brilliant academics from applying to the UK.
The Royal Society says a Government scheme introduced in 2011 to attract 1,000 top academics and artists had allowed only 50 people in.
Sir Andre, 54, came to the UK in the early 1990s as a Russian citizen with a permit to work as a post-doctoral fellow at Nottingham University. His salary would have been around £27,000 in today’s money, meaning that he would have been barred from entry under the minimum salary requirement.
He then went to work in the Netherlands where he met a doctoral student, Konstantin Novoselov, who would later share the Nobel Prize for the Graphene discovery. Although Sir Andre was a Dutch citizen when he returned to the UK in 2001, he said last night that the identification of graphene would “probably not have happened if I had been unable to employ great non-EU PhD students and post-docs, including Novoselov”.
The great scientist is not entirely correct, as his wife, marries to a Dutch citizen and EEA national would have been able to enter and work in the UK under EEA rules.
He holds dual British and Dutch citizenship and received a Knighthood in the 2012 New Year Honours.
Barbara Roche, co-chair of the new group Migration Matters, said: “This illustrates the problem with the implementation of the Government’s immigration cap. Some of the globe’s most skilled and gifted scientists are finding that before they can even begin to get to grips with the great scientific challenges they must first get to grips with the UK immigration system.
“When we are potentially shutting the door in the face of Nobel- winning physicists then that surely tells us there is something seriously wrong with our current immigration rules.”
The “experts” are finally waking up to the fact that the Government’s immigration policies are hurting the economy at a time when Britain needs jobs and growth.
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