Migration restrictions too hot to swallow for UK curry restaurants

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News stories are all over the net highlighting the possible downside to the United Kingdom's suspension of visas for low-skilled, non-European Economic Area workers.

The Home Office has suspended the third tier of its new five tier immigration system, which was originally intended for low-skilled workers. The idea was that low-skilled occupations could be filled with workers from within the newly expanded European Union.

Coupled with the suspension of Tier 3 by the Home Office and new, more stringent English language requirements for migrants, curry restaurants could experience hard times in the coming years.

Compounding the problem is the soaring price of basmati rice, one of the most popular varieties of rice in the UK. The rise in prices is attributed to restrictions on exports from large producers such as India and China.

Keith Best, Chief Executive for the Immigration Advisory Service, said that nothing is being done to address the situation, despite many meetings with UK immigration minister Liam Byrne.

"The Government has set out its new Points Based System of which Tier 3 is for lower skilled workers, yet Border & Immigration Agency officials state openly that there is no prospect of any Tier 3 scheme being introduced," Best said.

"The Minister himself has ruled out any such scheme at least until the end of December 2008 as that is the earliest time he will consider lifting the restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians having access to the UK labour market," he added. "Until that is done there can be no scheme for any non EEA nationals to come in this category in any event."

Best said that immigration authorities feel that vacancies in the curry industry can be filled by Eastern Europeans who "have no cultural sensitivity towards or understanding of the curry industry." He added that EU citizens exercising Treaty rights for free movement of labor and providing traditional routes of temporary migration for Commonwealth countries are not incompatible or mutually exclusive.

"The industry must see if there is any possibility of meeting its legitimate demands by a special scheme under the new provisions for work permits, Tier 2 under the Points Based System, which will be introduced in October this year," Best said. "At least the Minister has said that he will look at this. The industry must also convince MPs and the Migration Advisory Committee which advises the Government of skills shortages of the validity of its case."

Currently, there are an estimated 50,000 workers in the curry industry, many from Sylhet, Bangladesh, according to the BBC.