An influential group representing professionals from India and other non-European Union countries will challenge the temporary annual cap of 24,100 to be announced by Home secretary Theresa May on Monday.
Amit Kapadia,director of Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) Forum that fought a successful legal challenge against immigration rules,said the government’s move to impose an “illogical” cap will be opposed.
“Any such cap will affect Indian professionals because most non-European Union migrants to the UK come from India. But we will oppose and lobby against any illogical number or cap that the government may seek to impose,” he said.
Placing the cap at 24,100 between now and April 2011 means that British employers will not be able to employ any Indian and other non-EU professionals once the limit is reached.
Indians have been among the largest group of professionals recruited in the IT,medicine,education and services sector every year.
Kapadia said any knee-jerk attempt to impose a cap will hurt the British economy and will be opposed by British business and industry.
A spokesman for London mayor Boris Johnson also expressed opposition to the annual cap.
“A crude cap could be very detrimental to the free movement of the talented,creative and enterprising people who have enabled London to be such a dominant global force,” he said.
Sections of the Cameron government and sections of British trade and industry have opposed the annual cap plan on the ground that the British economy will ultimately suffer if employers are not allowed to hire the right kind of professionals from abroad if talent in certain sectors is not available within the country.
The agreement between coalition government partners Conservatives and Liberal Democrats says: “The Government believes that immigration has enriched our culture and strengthened our economy,but that it must be controlled so that people have confidence in the system.”
According to the pact,they recognised that to ensure cohesion and protect the public services,the need “was to introduce a cap on immigration and reduce the number of non-EU immigrants”.
“We will introduce an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work,” it said,adding “We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit.
In its pre-election pronouncements,the Conservative Party had favoured the reduction of net immigration to the UK to levels of the 1990s – “tens of thousands a year,instead of the hundreds of thousands every year under the Labour government”.
Kapadia said in the 1990s the overall net immigration was around 70,000 every year. In 2009,the figure was nearly 150,000.
Taking steps to bring the figure down to 70,000 now will mean a drastic cut,which would be unworkable and would be liable to face legal challenges.
Michael Gove,Schools secretary,and David Willetts,Universities minister,have reportedly raised concerns about the annual cap at a cabinet committee meeting chaired by deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
The Liberal Democrats had strongly opposed the cap during the election but agreed to it in the coalition agreement.