Britain will restrict immigration to preserve jobs for its citizens, Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said in an interview with the Times on Saturday.
“If people are being made unemployed, the question of immigration becomes extremely thorny … It’s been too easy to get into this country in the past and it’s going to get harder,” the newly appointed Labour Minister said.
The statement follows news that Britain‘s unemployment rate leapt to 5.7 per cent in the last quarter as the ‘credit crunch’ starts to bite.
The UK admits about 200,000 immigrants a year, but is already implementing a more restrictive points-based immigration system, with Tier 2 starting next month. Immigration Matters recently revealed that only 300 employers had registered as sponsors with the UK Border Agency.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said “Only those with skills the country needs can come”.
Woolas said the Government should train British citizens for those jobs, echoing Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British people” statement earlier this year.
Smith also said that “migrants benefit this country economically, contributing an estimated £6 billion to our national output, as well as socially and culturally.”
The Conservatives have been pushing to cut immigration by introducing an annual cap, a move which has so far been rejected by Labour.
Labour MP and former minister Frank Field welcomed the policy change. “We shouldn’t grow the population by immigration,” he said.
With the country heading into a recession and tougher immigration measures being threatened almost on a weekly basis, migrant workers are rightly concerned about their future in the UK. See also ‘What effect will economic downturn have on migrant workers’.
The Citizenship Bill, currently going through Parliament, will change settlement rules on Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and British Citizenship, and is yet another source of worry for gainfully employed migrant workers who have been in the UK for less than 5 years.
Employers are also concerned that their overseas workers, such as Senior Carers, may not be granted Indefinite Leave at the end of their five year period of continuous work, or be able to extend their Work Permits under a new set of tougher rules.
The Home Office set up the Migration Advisory committee (MAC) to “provide independent and evidence-based advice to government on specific sectors and occupations in the labour market where shortages exist which can sensibly be filled by migration”.
The committee recently recommended a comprehensive list of shortage occupations to include Consultants and Senior Nurses, Civil and Chemical Engineers, Maths and Science Teachers, Skilled Chefs and Senior Care Workers.
The Job Centre Plus website is currently advertising just under 10000 vacancies for care and support workers and this is by no means the only recruitment medium used by employers.
It is all very well to talk about training British Citizens and “British jobs for British people”, but the care industry still finds it extremely difficult to recruit indigenous staff and depends on overseas ‘Work Permit holding’ nurses and carers and students to run their homes.