UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid today promised to review the country’s immigration system to overcome a monthly immigration cap preventing professionals such as Indian doctors from being brought in to tackle shortages in the state-funded National Health Service (NHS). “I see a problem with that and it is something I am taking a fresh look at. I hope to think about this more carefully and see what can be done,” Javid told BBC in reference to the Tier 2 visa cap that has hit doctors and other highly-skilled professionals from outside the European Union (EU). His remarks came as a new “Scrap the Cap” campaign online petition raised over 1,600 signatures.
The campaign, launched by the ‘British Medical Journal’ and backed by the UK’s leading Indian doctors’ association – British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) – is calling for a “common sense approach” to the UK’s immigration system. The cap under the Tier 2 visa category to allow companies to bring in professionals from outside the EU is set at 20,700 per year, with a monthly limit of around 1,600. Until December last year, that limit had been exceeded only once in almost six years but since then that cap has been hit nearly every month. According to latest figures,between December 2017 and March 2018, the UK Home Office refused over 1,500 visa applications from doctors.
A number of the ruling Conservative Party’s own MPs have been lobbying the government for a review of the cap, which the home secretary seems to now be looking into. Javid also indicated a possible softening of the UK government’s immigration policy in other areas, distancing himself from the phrase “hostile environment” and adopting the phrase “compliant environment” that makes a clear distinction between illegal migrants and legal ones. He said he would also “like to look at again” the inclusion of international students within the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment of an annual net immigration target, admitting there was a “perception problem” around the issue which may be deterring overseas students, including Indians, from coming to the UK.
The Pakistani-origin minister, who took charge of the UK Home Office following the resignation of Amber Rudd amid a scandal involving Caribbean migrants, countered allegations by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) that the Conservative Party was rife with Islamophobia. “Just look at who the home secretary is in this country,” he said, adding that the MCB “does not represent Muslims”. He was referring to an open letter by the MCB earlier this week calling on the Conservative Party chair to launch an investigation and a “full audit” to remove racists and bigots from its fold.
It used the appearance of a controversial anti-Muslim speaker from West Bengal, Tapan Ghosh, at a seminar in the UK Parliament complex last year as an example of Islamophobic activities by some Tory MPs. The allegations were repeated in another open letter by one of the party’s own peers, Lord Sheikh, addressed to British Prime Minister Theresa May, calling on Downing Street to launch an investigation.
“I call on you as the prime minister to take the following two steps immediately. Firstly, set up an independent inquiry – we must investigate instances of Islamophobic conduct and isolate them swiftly,” Lord Sheikh says in the letter. “Secondly the Prime Minister should reach out to all outreach groups of the Conservative Party such as the Conservative Muslim Forum and actively engage in dialogue,” the letter adds. The Conservative Party said it takes all such allegations seriously. PTI AK PMS PMS 06031825