Britain announces cap on non-EU migration
Britain's new government unveiled plans to limit the numbers coming to live and work in the country for the first time Monday, cutting visas for skilled non-European Union migrants by five percent.
The proposals will come into force on July 19 as an interim measure ahead of a "tough" permanent, annual cap on migration from next April.
The details of that cap have to be ironed out in a three-month consultation with businesses, but it was a key campaign pledge of the Conservative party which took power in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats last month.
"This government believes that Britain can benefit from migration but not uncontrolled migration," Home Secretary Theresa May said.
"I recognise the importance of attracting the brightest and the best to ensure strong economic growth, but unlimited migration places unacceptable pressure on public services.
"While we consult on our tough new limit it's important we have an interim measure to avoid a rush of applications for migrants and ensure that the number of work visas issued stays below 2009 levels."
Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives promised before the election to cut net migration back to the levels of the 1990s, when it was "tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands". In 2008, it was 163,000.
Under the interim proposals unveiled Monday, conditions will be tightened under Britain's points-based immigration system for highly skilled migrants, the so-called tier one which includes entrepreneurs and investors.
The government wants to cut these by five percent. Between January and March 2010, 6,685 people were granted tier-one visas, suggesting about 19,000 people would be allowed in during the nine months covered by the interim cap.
The level of tier-two workers, which includes skilled migrants with job offers, will be also cut by five percent to 24,100 over the interim period, the Home Office said. Some groups, such as elite sports people, may be exempt.
All these exemptions concern non-EU migrants -- the government has no control over migration within the European Union because of the bloc's open borders policy.
© 2010 AFP